Thursday, November 30, 2006

The final family FO for Christmas

Did you get the sense from yesterday's non-update update that I was going to finish my brother's green scarf? Your powers of prognostication are sharp because late last night I completed my eighth FO and the last of the original number of scarves I hoped to knit as Christmas gifts.

I learned to knit on October 13, began work on my first scarf at my second knitting lesson on October 16, and wrapped up the seven scarves project, which includes a bonus eighth scarf, in the early hours of November 30. I wasn't supposed to get done so fast, was I?

The good news is that having almost a month until Christmas means I can knit scarves for some friends and, eventually, for myself. In one way, anything I get done between now and the holiday is gravy, but let's face it, you know I'm going to knit like mad to make however many I get in my head that I need to make. I'm excited to learn some new things--purling and knitting with circular needles--so that will shake things up a little too.

My brother's green scarf was smooth knitting. I encountered no problems with it other than having second thoughts about the color. I'm very pleased with it, and hopefully he is too.

So the time has come to return to the medium blue scarf for my friend Paul, who co-hosts the movie review show with me. Last I left it, I had unknitted and frogged several rows when I might have been better off leaving it alone. I stopped when I could see there was a row or two that didn't look right.

Kristin examined it after last night's screening of Apocalypto. She gave me two options: unknit an estimated four rows or let it be. The flaw only shows up on one side, and when the whole thing is finished, it probably wouldn't be all that noticeable. My confidence in undoing stitches has improved, but the prospect of undoing at least eighty of them wasn't something I wanted to do. I knew, though, that having that bad spot would bug me. Unknitting it is.

I've said before that undoing stitches has finally clicked, but perhaps this time I can say so with full confidence. I unknitted four rows, or eighty stitches, only one of which I did incorrectly. That mistake wasn't costly. I would like for Kristin to doublecheck my work before moving forward, but I think I'm good to go again on this scarf.

Next...the second wave of scarves begins.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

A brief update

Not much to report today. (Thank God. I hear you.) Work continues on my brother's green scarf, the last of the seven scarves in my original Christmas plan. I knitted and tried watching television last night. I'm still looking at my hands enough that I'm not sure that it's technically correct to say I "watched" TV, but I saw more than has been the case in previous attempts.

I joined skeins this afternoon, so I'm about two-thirds of the way through this scarf. There's an outside chance I could finish it tonight, but Mel Gibson's latest non-English language bloodbath is screening this evening. I really want to get this one finished...just because.

Next...another FO?

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

The Sunday Knitting Curse

Regular readers may recall that knitting on Sundays eventually leads to problems, some that I can fix, some that I can't, and some that I know I can't but spend too much time on anyway. Do I really believe there's a curse on Sundays? Of course not. I've messed up plenty on other days of the week, but I've noticed the problems most on Sundays.

Sunday I continued work on the blue scarf. I bought the medium blue Patons Shetland Chunky yarn during my day before Thanksgiving stash restocking at JoAnn's. Three of the people on my secondary list said that their favorite color was blue, navy blue more specifically. I'm becoming more knowledgeable about yarn, but I still need some help. Once I found what I thought might be good choices, I called Kristin, who patiently listened while I described the yarns and then gave her advice. I'm telling you, with this and the knitting repairs, she could make a little money on the side as emergency knitting support.

I didn't want to get the same thing for all three scarves. In addition to the aforementioned Patons yarn, I also selected two skeins of Bernat Satin (color: Admiral) and Lion Cashmere Blend in navy. I'm knitting the Patons Shetland Chunky the same way I've done everything else, although I am using US 10s for the first time. The cashmere blend comes with a pattern that I'm going to try. It calls for purling, which I don't know how to do but would like to learn. I want to use the Bernat Satin yarn for a striped scarf. I may knit it with circular needles, which would be another first for me.

I forgot that I needed white yarn to go with the blue for the striped scarf. I also wanted to find some green yarn for the last of the scarves for my family members. On my way back to Columbus on Saturday I stopped at JoAnn's to get some. Armed with a coupon from the Thanksgiving ad, I was ready to add more yarn to my stash. The JoAnn's on Sawmill isn't as close to home, but it was on the way and, in my observation, a better store. The atmosphere is warmer, the checkout lines are shorter, and the staff is more helpful.

I assumed it would be wise to use similar yarn for different colors in the same scarf, but what do I know? I was having a tough time finding white yarn, so I asked one of the employees where some might be and if I should try to match its texture and weight to the other. She tried to find something for me, and another shopper chipped in with some advice. Unfortunately they were out of the Bernat Silk in white, which the company has named "silk", and nothing else caught my eye. I found some green yarn that I thought my brother might like, but there was only one skein. This JoAnn's didn't have what I needed, but I was right in my impression of it being a friendlier store.

I trekked to the JoAnn's on Polaris and quickly located two skeins of Lion Brand Wool-Ease Chunky (color: grass). I roamed the aisles several times before finding the Bernat Silk yarn. They had plenty of the white, so I snagged two skeins of it as well. Here's how the two look side by side.

On the way back to my place I started having second thoughts about the shade of green for my brother's scarf. Was it too feminine, for lack of a better word? This brother has been notoriously difficult in pegging down the right color. (He's the one who said he couldn't specify because there are millions of shades. The best he could do was give me frequency values for the color.) I've come around to thinking it's okay, and Kristin didn't think it was too girly. We'll see. He can always trade with my dad if necessary.

Back to the medium blue scarf... I was making great progress on it, but my streak of Sunday knitting problems had to remain intact. I thought I didn't knit a stitch properly, but I had the right number of them and decided it was fine. It still bugged me a couple rows later, so I reversed course and unknitted back to it. The good news is that I am a lot more confident in my ability to unknit stitches. The bad news is that I did one or two incorrectly and was getting a mess on my hands. This happened after 11:30 p.m., just in time to keep the streak alive.

Kristin suggested frogging to fix the problem. I ripped out a couple rows with great care and went about the delicate task of putting the needle through the last row. Phew! I thought I was set, but upon resuming knitting I could see that something wasn't right. I frogged another couple rows and tried to get the needle through the row. That didn't go so well. I've been knitting tightly. The loops are small too. I discovered that it's tricky getting the needle through the first few loops because if you pull on it too much, you start frogging where you're trying to go next.

I tried to be as gentle as possible with the needle and yarn, but let's just say I ended up frogging more than was necessary as I made vain attempt after vain attempt to get the needle through the twenty stitches. To my relief I accomplished the job, but after knitting a couple rows, it didn't look right. I e-mailed Kristin a couple of bad photos. She thinks I may have accidentally purled some stitches. More likely I got some backwards on the needle or some wrong ones. Time for this scarf to be put on hold temporarily until there's a screening when Kristin can bail me out.

I didn't want to lose an evening of knitting, so I began my brother's green scarf. The bulky weight yarn has a pattern on the label, but after casting on and knitting a few rows, it was more open than I liked. I moved down from 11s to 10 1/2s, which is suggested for the gauge on the label but not in the pattern. I cast on eighteen stitches and preferred how it looked after several rows were done.

Next...continuing work on the last of the original seven scarves.

Monday, November 27, 2006

More secret knitting and my seventh FO

Friday I humored my parents and began the arduous process of digging through childhood belongings and schoolwork so that there was less stuff for them to move in a month. And I wonder why I have pack rat tendencies... I think I must have found every elementary school art project and notes and homework from junior high through college. I threw out a lot but kept the "creative" work: papers and David Letterman-esque Top Ten lists that I wrote to amuse friends. (To see what high school kids find funny from this side of that time...)

Everyone must have been worn out from the day because after the rest of the family watched my awards screener of Over the Hedge and four of us played euchre, most went to bed early. I took a nap during the movie, so I was more alert and ready to knit in secret.

As I did for my Thanksgiving secret knitting, I kept the skeins in my backpack, ready to be hidden at a moment's notice, but I didn't put the chair in front of the door. I resumed work on my brother's tan scarf and hit a really good groove. I forgot my tape measure, so I didn't know how much I had done. Aside from finishing a project, my favorite time in knitting a scarf is the point when there's enough that it needs to be folded. It seems more tangible then. I would be satisfied if I could knit that much of my brother's tan scarf while at my parents' place.

I took a break from the tan scarf and cast on twenty stitches of blue Patons Shetland Chunky yarn to my lime US 10s. (I bought more yarn last Wednesday, but I'll save my yarn purchasing experience for tomorrow's entry.) This scarf is not one of my original seven, but since I'll finish those before too long, I can now take on my secondary list. This is my first time knitting with the 10s. They will take some getting used to, but I know I'm up to the challenge. With just a few rows knitted I can tell that this one should look very nice.

I returned to knitting the tan scarf for another hour and was pleased with the progress I had made. Since everyone was asleep, I'd been able to knit without the nervousness of someone finding out.

It's a good thing I put everything away when I stopped for the night. At 2:30 a.m. I heard someone in my bedroom. I'm a fairly light sleeper, so whoever it was didn't have to make a lot of noise to rouse me. I was a little disoriented, and with my glasses off, I couldn't tell who it was. My brother, the one I'd switched rooms with, was in my bedroom. Apparently the downstairs bathroom was occupied, so he came to the one upstairs and then got confused where his room was. He may have been sleepwalking too because he didn't respond quickly when I asked what he was doing there.

I had been planning to return to Columbus on Saturday afternoon. I stuck to the plan when I got up and was greeted by my mom telling me that there was more stuff to go through in the basement. I did what she wanted, but I was irritated for that to be the first thing I heard. Don't get me wrong. I left on good terms, but my time with the family wasn't as restful as I would have liked.

At lunch we talked about Christmas plans. I mentioned that I was working on something but didn't clarify what it was. My mom isn't wise to my knitting, but her joke that I was knitting sweaters for everyone is closer to the truth than she realizes. I may be churning out FOs on a regular basis, but it would be humanly impossible for me to knit seven sweaters in two months.

I arrived at home early Saturday evening. One of the first things I did was pick up my knitting. A quick measurement showed that the scarf was about 40" long. Not bad for most of it being knitted in secret. I watched the Blue Jackets game and knitted during the intermissions. I measured again and determined that I might be able to finish the scarf that night. In other words, that's what I aimed to do.

Sure enough, I knitted up a storm and bound off on the other side of midnight. Initially I wasn't sure how the different shades would combine, but I'm extremely pleased with the final result.

During Thanksgiving I paid attention to the colors my family members wore. I think my brother will like this a lot, not that he'll say anything one way or the other.

I briefly knitted the blue scarf, but I was running out of steam. No wonder. I have seven FOs in six weeks as a knitter. With four weeks until Christmas, I'm hoping to add five or six to the total.

Next...can I avoid the Sunday knitting curse?

Friday, November 24, 2006

Knitting in secret

Not to sound like I'm contradicting my Thanksgiving comments, but my family is rapidly driving me insane while I'm home for the holiday.

You see, barring a major turn of events, my mom and dad will be moving to South Bend, Indiana after Christmas. When I was in college my parents switched careers to become pastors. Jobs aren't always easy to come by, especially for women in ministry, and my mom has felt for awhile that she needed to go elsewhere. Recently she was offered and accepted a job in northewest Indiana. I'm happy for her, but the timing means that coming home for Thanksgiving and Christmas equals preparing for their move.

As you might imagine, the last thing I want to do when getting a few days off is going through a bunch of old stuff. The holiday itself brought a reprieve from any work of this kind, but today they've been hounding two of my brothers and me to dig through our childhood belongings and organize the stacks of stuff cluttering their basement and garage. I understand why they're prodding us to do this, but it doesn't mean I have to like it. I've found most of my schoolwork from junior high on, which went directly to the burn barrel, but sifting through all of these things is tedious. And the thought of carting the remainder back to my place...

Would I rather be doing something else? Knitting, perhaps? Yes.

I have found a couple small opportunities to knit in secret, but it hasn't been without a few challenges. The parsonage has three guest bedrooms, two upstairs and one down. I wanted to get a room on the second level because it's the one place where I can escape from the noise my family members make. More importantly, it's location would give me some forewarning of anyone clomping up the stairs, entering the room, and discovering my secret knitting. If I was downstairs, my secret would be vulnerable to exposure in the blink of an eye.

The plan hit a snag because one of my brothers had already claimed the room in question. I'm not sure how I persauded him to let me have the room. Maybe it was because it seemed more important to me. My knitting location had been acquired, but my secret was far from secure.

I knew that someone would ask why I had wanted to know everyone's favorite colors. I didn't think it would be my mom. I played it off as something I was curious about and turned it back around by bringing up how difficult it was to get them to answer it. No one pressed the issue after that.

Still, the most daunting task awaited me: knitting in secret. My bedroom door does not lock and doesn't always stay shut tightly. My parents' dog can knock it open. Here's a look at him.

Kristin had jokingly suggested putting a dresser in front of the door, but actually, it's not a bad idea. Silly as this is going to sound, my solution was to sit in a chair and move it against the door.

I tried this on Thanksgiving afternoon when almost everybody else was napping. It wasn't the best time for me to attempt some secret knitting because I was groggy from a nap of my own and on edge because one of my brothers kept going up and down the stairs. I noticed that my stitches weren't as good as usual, so I decided to put it aside for later.

I went back to knitting in secret when I announced I was going to bed early. I set up shop in front of the bedroom door again and prepared the skeins so that they could be hidden quickly if necessary. The two skeins sat in my backpack, and a point protector was within reach of my right hand. If I needed to stash the knitting in a flash, I could dump it in the backpack and turn it over.

I knitted for an hour and a half. By midnight I was ready to go to bed, which is a bit on the early side for me. I grabbed another hour of knitting before lunch today. I expect to get some in tonight. It's not as much as I'd like, but I'll take what I can get.

Granted, it would be much simpler to tell everyone what I'm doing. I would probably have more time to knit. I'm bound and determined to keep this secret from them until Christmas because I think it will increase the surprise.

If I get really desperate for yarn while I'm here, maybe all I need is some shears. Here's a photo of some of my parents' neighbors.

I'm heading home Saturday afternoon. My knitting progress should go up in the next two days. I feel like I need it as a break from this "relaxing" visit.

Next...more secret knitting?

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Giving Thanks

Today we give thanks for all of our blessings. I'm not sure why I've often found this hard to do before the Thanksgiving meal. Perhaps it's because it is done out of a sense of duty more than gratitude, but whatever the case, this year I have a greater appreciation for the good things in my life.

Yes, I'm going to get serious today. This has been a trying year, especially if counting back twelve months from now. No one close to me has died. I haven't been in poor health or lost my job. I have had some pretty good scares, though.

Work has been turbulent. I'm one of just three fulltime employees at the college/city television station. Maintaining the status quo can be all-consuming, nevermind when there are other issues. My boss was dealt some tough blows in the unexpected deaths of loved ones. There was a major incident in which I was deeply hurt by something a co-worker did to smear me in a public way. The future of the station has come into question because of how it is funded.

I've always enjoyed good health, but earlier this year I had to have a lesion removed from my tongue. (I agree. Gross.) Who knows why it was there. For a week I had to wait to find out if the biopsy showed evidence of cancer. On top of that, my tongue was very swollen, which made eating difficult for a couple weeks and talking a challenge for almost a month. Fortunately everything turned out okay, but it was a nerve-racking time.

I've been burning the candle at both ends for a long time, and this year I think it caught up with me. You never want to go through rough patches, but I feel like it has ultimately been for the best. With that said, here is what I am thankful for:


Sure, they can drive me crazy, but whose family doesn't do the same? I have good relationships with my parents and brothers. I don't have a lot of other close family, but I know these people are there for me.

-Old friends

Again, this is not a humongous group, but with all of the tension and stress this year has brought, it was good to be reminded who is there to help during the times when you need it most.

-New friends

With my job, I'm in a spot where most of the people around me are ten to fifteen years younger or older. I don't tend to meet a lot of people my age. There's no doubt then that making new friends has been my greatest joy of the year. And no, it's not because it led to learning to knit, although that has certainly been an unexpected bonus.


Probably the main thing many of us take for granted. Being put in a situation in which simple things like eating and talking were temporary challenges woke me up to how blessed I've been to have good health. It also spurred me to pay attention to what I eat and start exercising again to get in better shape. It's amazing how much better I feel after doing this for months.

-A good job

I'm extremely lucky to have a job that I love. Facing the prospect of doing something else really freaked me out. The good news is that my co-worker and I have repaired what I thought was unfixable between us. The funding issue, which has yet to be resolved, may end up putting us entirely under the college's umbrella and improving the job. There are no guarantees, but the future sounds promising.

-Wisdom to put everything in perspective

Although it wasn't by choice, this year has required reevaluating what is important to me and how to take better care of myself. It might sound silly, but I'm grateful that I've been able to see this and be smart enough to do something about it. It's one thing to know you need to make changes and another thing to follow through. I can't claim perfection here, but I feel like I'm on the right path.


Next to everything else, this might seem frivolous, at least to non-knitters. I don't expect there are any of those here, so you know what I'm talking about, right? I've gushed about knitting on this blog because it means a lot to me. Words are failing me, so I hope the enthusiasm I've shown says all that needs to be said.

Have a wonderful day wherever you are and whomever you're with.

Next...knitting in secret at my parents' house.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Tan scarf in progress

The pre-Thanksgiving crunch has cut into my knitting time, but that won't stop me from giving a brief work-in-progress update.

The above photo is for Jennifer, who commented the other day that she couldn't wait to see how this yarn knitted up. I don't have much done, but this should give you an idea of how the different shades are intermingling.

By the way, I switched the blog to the new beta version of Blogger. It went against my better judgment, but better to test it here than on the film site I've been operating for almost three years. I was experiencing a quirk with the comments, but it appears to have fixed itself. If you click on the comments link at the end of a post and it tells you that the blog you are looking for is not found, don't believe it. The comments (and ability to comment) are still there. Click on the time stamp for the permanent link. Then you can see the comments and even click on the comments link to view them on a different page. The techies appear to have resolved this issue, so chances are you don't need to bother with those instructions.

This afternoon I'm planning to get some more yarn, and then it's to the Blue Jackets game tonight.

It's my intention to post one or two entries while being with my family for the holiday. Of course I have to write about knitting under everyone's noses and what drastic measures may be required to keep it secret. Tomorrow will bring the Very Special Thanksgiving Post, although I'm hoping to write it today. Not that I haven't been thankful in previous years, but this year I feel it more deeply.

So, have a good holiday, and happy knitting!

Next...A Very Special Thanksgiving Post.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Sharing the secret

In today's edition, some knitting in the media, blog news, and *drum roll* revealing my knitting secret to a friend...

Astute viewers of The Office know that Phyllis is a knitter. She knitted an oven mitt for Michael in last season's Christmas episode, and a few episodes ago we caught a glimpse of her knitting at work. Someone with the show must love knitting because this past Thursday's episode found Pam telling a new co-worker that her mother knitted her sweater. Karen responded, "That's so cool. I've always wanted to learn how to knit."

There's knitting precedent on The Office. As far as I know, the same isn't true on the Homestar Runner site. Recent short "No Hands On Deck!" briefly shows The Cheat knitting. If you're not familiar with the site, I'm afraid that this short is a terrible entry point. It's easily one of the worst toons I've seen on this otherwise excellent site. Newcomers won't make heads or tails of it either. But hey, knitting!

I'm now part of the Knit Ohio ring, which you can tell by the fancy-schmancy button in the sidebar. I've also added The Secret Knitter primer to the sidebar. If you're new here (or if you aren't), it lists links to some key posts. I haven't listed the entries for all of my FOs because that seems unbecoming. I reserve the right to change my mind, though.

Most notably, there's an explanation for why I'm knitting in secret. So you know, I'm a lot less self-conscious about it now. I seriously considered knitting in public on Saturday if it would be a way of avoiding noise from my neighbors during the football game. I didn't need to leave, but even thinking about knitting in public on my own is a big step for me.

If it weren't for this blog, keeping my knitting secret might make me crazy. I love it, and I've spilled a lot of words on it. Typically I'm quieter than the impression you might get from this blog, which probably makes me seem like a motormouth. Usually it takes some time for me to warm up to people, but once I have, I don't think that I'm as talkative as I am here. (I have my moments, though.) I hope I'm a better listener than my endless words might convey.

OK, there's several paragraphs before getting to what I wanted to talk about: I have revealed my knitting secret to a friend. Aside from those of you reading this blog, the only people who have known are Kristin, who's been teaching me; her husband Paul; some of her knitting friends; her mother, I presume; and the girls she teaches on Monday afternoons. Oh, and the half of the city that has seen Kristin repairing my knitting in parking lots and garages around Columbus. It's been fine if those people know. They're not going to rat me out to friends and family, although Kristin's yarn store students sound like a rambunctious lot capable of such a nefarious plot.

For some time my friend Royce has been looking to move to Seattle. I just found out he's going there permanently in a week and a half. He's on my secondary Christmas scarf recipient list, the one I'll be working on when I finish my inital goal of seven for family members. Rather than go through the whole "what's your favorite color, and I'm not going to tell you why I'm asking" routine, I went ahead and told him that I know how to knit and wanted to make him a gift before he goes. He laughed and then said that he knows how to knit as well.

Apparently he was one of very few boys at the elementary school he attended in Hong Kong. Knitting was one of the things they were taught. It doesn't sound like he's done it since then, but he didn't see anything weird about me learning now. I didn't expect him to give me any grief over it, but hearing that he knew how to knit was kind of cool.

Next...a sneak peek at my brother's tan scarf.

Monday, November 20, 2006

My Fifth and Sixth FOs

Believe it or not, but I have two more FOs.

I bought the yarn Friday afternoon, started the scarf that night, and finished it early Sunday afternoon. Apparently this is what happens when I don't have anything else to do. If not for another problem with knots in the middle of a skein, I might have finished it late Saturday night.

I wasn't sure what I was going to do on Saturday. As I griped about in my previous entry, Ohio State football was inescapable, although my goal was to avoid it as much as possible. Just to clear up my lapsed fandom, I don't have a problem with people liking the team. I grew up in the Dayton area and followed them, although my enthusiasm has dimmed dramatically the longer I've been here. OSU fanaticism in Columbus is practiced at a much greater intensity than it is elsewhere in the state. It's the local crypto-religion. (Sorry for the world of academia word. Google isn't turning up a good definition for something I recall from a religion class. The best I could find is "a form of ultimate concern in which the religious nature of the commitment made by the participant is not recognized as being religious".)

Fortunately, my neighbors in the apartment below must have been at a game party. They usually get noisy when the Buckeyes play, but there was nary a peep coming through the floor. I used the time to work on a scarf in a University of Michigan-like blue. That wasn't intentional but kind of gratifying in a defiant way. I did make a point of listening to Sufjan Stevens' Greetings from Michigan, in part because its good knitting music and in part because it was my own private protest of anti-Michigan sentiment. (By the way, Greetings from Michigan, which is about his home state, is his first in a proposed project to make albums about each of the fifty states.)

I knitted for a long time and then took a break to do some shopping. Going out was like passing through a ghost town. Very few cars were on the road, and few people were at Target. Want to know how few people were out on a Saturday night? When OSU played in the national championship game a few years ago, the TV ratings were astronomical. At least 90% of those people watching television in the area were tuned into the game. In TV terms, this is unheard of.

I returned home, knitted some more, and then set the scarf aside to watch the Blue Jackets game. I knitted during the intermissions and through a third quarter that had little on the line again because they were behind by a lot. By now I knew I would finish my fifth scarf during the weekend.

I kept the television on but listened more than watched. I've developed a callus on my right index fingertip, so I could knit without it getting sore like it has during other marathon sessions. The clock passed midnight, and I kept knitting. If I kept at it, I might be able to finish before going to bed.

Of course, now that I was on the other side of midnight, it meant that technically it was Sunday. And you know what happens on Sundays. That's right, time for more yarn predicaments.

One of the skeins had a big clump of yarn that the strand wouldn't pull out of easily. I tried to untangle it, but deep down I knew there were probably several knots inside it that I couldn't undo. I found the end of the skein and unraveled it to the point of this clump. If I cut the yarn, I was going to lose several feet. Rather than do something foolish, like stay up way too late, I decided it was time to stop. I wrapped the unraveled yarn around my hand--a bad choice that would catch up with me--and went to bed.

Sunday I cut my losses and cut the yarn. I joined the ends and began knitting again. But what do we have here? Oh no, it's another clump. Somehow the yarn that I haphazardly rewrapped became tangled. I pulled out as much as I could from both sides of the yarn mass and tried to undo it.

I don't have anything to wind yarn on, but I thought I might be able to improvise. I realized that I don't have a basketball, which would have been too big but would have worked. My solution: a jar of spaghetti sauce. I figured it was about the size of a skein and would get the job done. We won't know because I couldn't untangle the knots.

I measured the scarf to see how much was left to knit. Since it's for my great aunt, I knew I needed to get to five feet or so. I had pulled a decent amount of yarn out of the clump and hoped that it would be enough. It took a couple more hard tugs, but I extracted all that I needed to reach the desired length, bind off, and have some yarn remaining for a tail.

I've been happy with how my stitches have looked on the other scarves, but there's no doubt in my mind that this is the best scarf I've knitted. I wish the yarn were softer, more like scarf #3, but I'm just now understanding the differences in fabrics. The Reynolds Utopia yarn is 100% acrylic, so it's stiffer than the 50% acrylic, 50% nylon Fantasy Dark Horse yarn. I'm surprised how much it took to knit this scarf. Each skein had approximately 225 yards. I don't have as much left over as I thought I would.

My Sunday plans included watching the Bengals, but the local affiliate chose to carry the Browns-Steelers game. If the orange and black were playing up to expectations, I would have gone to a sports bar to catch the game. As it is, the season has been disappointing, and I didn't feel like dragging myself somewhere.

I needed to do some writing for Tuesday's show and to catch up on everything I saw last week. I couldn't muster the mental energy to do it, so I took a nap and knitted some more. The skinny version of my mom's purple scarf was coming along quickly on the 15s. Yes, so quickly that I had another FO. (Pardon the out of focus photo. I can't seem to get an accurate color with the flash on. With it turned off I have to hold the camera exceptionally still or else it blurs.)

It was a fun and productive weekend, which is probably why I didn't go stir crazy when you consider how much I stayed at home. I have the tan yarn for a scarf that I'll start tonight, but already I need to go back to the yarn stores and load up. Time with my family for Thanksgiving should slow down my knitting, what with them not knowing about it and having to do it secretly, but I'll be sure to restock and take some with me for the moments I can find.

Next...the secret knitter reveals himself to a friend.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

Replenishing my stash

The week-long movie screening cram session, which put a serious crimp in my knitting time, came to a merciful end Friday morning. I realize that most people don't think seeing six movies in three days is work at all. Trust me, it is. You feel like you're constantly on the run, not to mention having to endure a good percentage of mediocre to bad stuff and dealing with a certain theater's shortcomings.

The place in question doesn't seem to be turning on the heat, which led Kristin and I to bring blankets after shivering through two screenings this week. (The blankets made a big difference.) And there was the extra day we had to make a return trip because they didn't have the print. The previous morning we waited for more than an hour for it to be delivered. At least we got a free lunch for the inconvenience.

Oh yeah, then you have to find time to write about the films, which has eluded me so far. I wouldn't do it if I didn't love it, but overbooked weeks like this test even my stamina. (I don't know how I pulled off consecutive days of watching seven films at the Cleveland International Film Festival earlier this year. Fourteen films in two days is the most I've ever--and will ever--watch.) Few colleagues attended all six, so I'm proud of Kristin for earning her film critic stripes. I think she's hesitated to give herself the title, but she deserves it after making it through this week.

With screenings out of the way, I finally had a chance to restock my yarn stash. I went to the LYS that Kristin introduced me to on my first yarn shopping adventure. I went inside and slowly made my way around the shop as I looked for the perfect yarn and color combination.

Keenly aware that I stand out in such a place, I was curious to see if I would receive an excessive amount of attention or the cold shoulder. I've gone into some national chain craft stores and not been able to find a soul to help me, but in a small, locally-owned shop, I expected I wouldn't have this problem. I took my time browsing the shelves while the employee behind the cash register was nattering about something business-related on the telephone. Eventually she got off the phone and asked if I needed assistance. I didn't, not at the point, but explained that I was looking for yarn for scarves. She said they had plenty of choices and to ask if I needed anything. She did steer me away from a section when I wandered into the area for sock yarn. It's a good thing because I was considering one of them.

I expected that the yarn shop might be a haven from the mass hysteria gripping this town over the college football game being played Saturday afternoon. It is impossible to live in Columbus and not have the big state university's football team shoved down your throat. I've lived in Ohio my entire life and been a fan of the scarlet and gray, but being in OSU's backyard is another thing entirely. The fans here are certifiably insane. I've put up with it since living in the area, but this year my patience snapped in regard to all things Buckeyes. I renounced any interest in them. I don't watch the games or read about them. But there's no escaping Michigan week, especially when everything is riding on this game like it never has.

Locals have an irrational hatred--we're talking foaming at the mouth contempt--not just for their rivals in maize and blue but for the whole state and anything from it. I remember reading complaints when a local shopping center's highway signs were painted blue. The same was true when the NHL franchise's nickname, the Blue Jackets, was announced. How dare the people of central Ohio have to cheer a team associated with anything blue! A recount of a local Congressional race was delayed so as not to pull workers away from today's game. Inmates at a Youngstown prison are being given pizza so they will keep the noise down during the game. Kristin told me that a grocery store employee giving away free apple slices was apologizing for the produce being from the state up north. These people are lunatics.

Anyway, the LYS was no different. A male employee told me that Michigan was going to be really motivated, as if they needed an extra push, because of news that former coach Bo Schembechler had died. I heard someone else laughing about provoking some Michigan fans. The same employee later said to me that he wondered if I was making a scarf for someone from that state up north--the name of it is treated like an epithet--because I was comparing dark blue yarns.

I didn't say anything, but this kind of craziness makes me want to break stuff. (God help me if OSU wins today.) Isn't it possible to be a fan and not go completely bonkers? Whatever happened to friendly rivalries? I don't crap sunshine and rainbows, but I can't help but feel that the cartoonish hatred for Michigan is poisonous. I feel bad about wanting to see the city's dreams crushed, but I'm hoping to get a heaping helping of schadenfreude today with a Michigan win. (I refuse to watch, though.)

Sorry for getting sidetracked... I found dark blue yarn with some gray flecks, not quite enough to be called variegated, that I'm going to use for my great aunt's scarf. I got two different skeins of tan yarn to double wrap for my youngest brother's scarf. The store employee didn't think the colors were different enough. I had my eyes checked about two weeks ago, and I passed all the color blindness tests. Check out the photo and tell me if those skeins look the same. Plus, I want a subtle difference, not something dramatic.

You see that I also bought my first circular needles, wooden US 11s. Kristin and I have talked a little about other projects I might work on once my holiday scarf-making concludes. These needles were a whopping 97 cents at JoAnn's, so why not add them to my knitting supplies? We met at JoAnn's after I was done at The Yarn Shop. Her friend is making a messenger bag for me, so we were checking out fabric for it and eventually wandered into the yarn section. We also browsed a sale at Hobby Lobby. I didn't buy anything else, but I'm finding that hearing her talk about the yarn and feeling the skeins is helping me understand the differences in them.

I knitted a lot last night, in part because of the unfortunate trend that finds the Blue Jackets buried by the start of the third period. I searched to no avail for the ends in the middle of the skeins. (As I knitted, I discovered that I need to learn how to pull the yarn from the middle.) I cast on fourteen stitches to my US 11s. I knitted a few rows and saw a spot that I didn't like. I undid a row--correctly, I might add--and then frogged the rest. I started over and liked what I saw. I knitted 20", which is probably about a third of this scarf's length. There is a very real possibility that I might finish it this weekend.

Next...more on scarf #5.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Knitting questions for readers

Not much new to report knitting-wise. I'm continuing work on the skinnier version of my fourth FO and compiling yarn questions for Kristin so I can make some good choices on my Friday shopping excursion. I'm very excited to see what new yarn I find.

As it turns out, being out of yarn this week hasn't been much of a problem. The screening schedule--six films in three days--has gobbled a lot of time and energy. I'm aiming to finish the skinny scarf and another of my original seven before Thanksgiving. I think I can make some big strides toward that goal this weekend. Other than watching the hockey games on TV, I don't have any plans. The weather is pretty miserable right now, so cooping up and knitting sounds like a good way to stay warm and dry.

I've done plenty of talking in this space, so today I'd like to throw some questions out there for your input. I would be ever so grateful if you would use the comments to answer the questions. It's not a test, so don't sweat it.

-What knitting blogs, websites, and podcasts do you recommend? Feel free to plug your own.

-What do you like to listen to while knitting?

And two technical questions:

-If you use Blogger, have you tried the new beta version? I know you can't change your blog back after switching, so I'm curious to hear if anyone has had any problems with it. All I've found so far is this review.

-When searching for Knitting Confidential posts on Bloglines, there is no preview of what I've written. Does anyone know if this is a Blogger or Bloglines issue? I decided to switch to a short description for syndicated posts because the full description seemed excessive on one's Bloglines feeds page.

Thanks in advance for your answers.

Next...restocking my stash.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

My Fourth FO

So, my last two posts have been long and rambling... I'll try to be more to the point today.

We rejoin the purple scarf in a mess from my skein joining disaster. If there's a morning screening, then chances are Kristin is administering a post-screening knit repair. No salvage work from the car trunk this time, though. After seeing Fast Food Nation, what could feel more rebellious than going to McDonald's for lunch? My stomach grumbled from about the halfway point of the film to the end, so it didn't care what "extras" might be in that Big Mac.

She executed a fast repair at the fast food restaurant, and I was good to go again. Since I didn't need much yarn from the second skein to finish the scarf, Kristin suggested I use the remainder to knit a skinnier scarf for my mom. A doubly good idea! I'll get to look even more like the good son by making her two scarves. This second one, perhaps best classified as scarf #4a, will also give me a project until I can buy some more yarn. It's looking more and more like Friday will be when I can get to a LYS to restock, so this should fill tonight and tomorrow with knitting pleasure.

I resumed knitting the fourth scarf when I got home from work. I only needed to knit seven inches to get it to the desired length of five feet. I measured it after knitting for a half hour and saw that I had just three inches left. I knitted for fifteen minutes or so and remeasured. Hmm, what's this? Suddenly it's 64" long?

I've talked about my rumored knitting superpowers before, but there is no way I could have knitted this much in this little time. The scarf is very light and airy. Its length depends on how tightly it's pulled. For all I know, I might not have needed to join skeins in the first place and could have called this one an FO on Friday.

But who cares? I've finished my mom's purple scarf! Isn't it gorgeous?

The photo makes it look almost blue. It's probably a combination of the light in my apartment and how my camera renders colors. If I can, I'll take another picture that is more accurate in color reproduction.

I tried the scarf on for size and was really impressed with how soft and warm it is. It's the best (read: most expensive) yarn I've bought to date. The price and the struggles have been totally worth it. I'm really proud of this one. I'm certain my mom is going to love it.

Time to begin the companion purple scarf! Per Kristin's recommendation, I cast on seven stitches to my US 15 needles. (I did the other one with fourteen stitches on 13s and got a lot of length out of the yarn.) Once I started knitting, I understood why I had so much trouble beginning the other scarf made from this Katia Duende yarn. Even with my experience with this yarn, it was still kind of tricky. I knitted for a short stretch until the busy day caught up to me.

Next...some requests for reader feedback.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Practice night

With the purple scarf in unworkable condition, my knitting looked like it would be on hold Monday. I gave serious consideration to going to a LYS to browse or buy some more yarn. Ultimately I decided not to go because I didn't feel like going out after getting home from work. Plus, I had some questions I wanted to ask Kristin about yarn choices.

Other than wanting to knit--a good reason, to be sure-- I didn't need to run around and go shopping. I was a little tired from the cold air blowing in my office all day, and I was wrapped up in watching e-mails pour in regarding a film critics group project. In the end, it was for the best that I stayed home, even if my schedule may not permit a yarn run until Friday.

For the last couple years one of my brothers has made it a hobby to collect as many McDonald's Monopoly game pieces as he can. He doesn't eat there. He writes out requests and mails them with self-addressed stamped envelopes. I'm talking hundreds. I don't think he holds any illusions that he'll win the big prizes. He's doing it to amass enough Best Buy bucks that can be used to make a "free" purchase of a couple hundred dollars. He has upfront costs with postage and envelopes, but he's determined that he comes out ahead by enough for this pursuit to be worthwhile.

This year he sent fewer requests, just 220 or so. I'm not sure how many he gets per request, but suffice it to say that he gets a lot. Each piece has a code that he can be entered into an online game for another chance at prizes. Since one person can only enter ten codes a day, he divvies up the remaining codes among family members. I've won somewhere in the area of five hundred free digital camera prints from an online service--a common prize, obviously--but last night I landed on the free parking spot and won a $150 Best Buy gift card. OK, so I wouldn't be knitting that night, but this was a nice way to compensate for it.

I need to send the actual game piece into the prize office, so I called to let him know about my good fortune. He seemed somewhat distracted when he answered the phone. He told me that someone had put a dead dog between his screen door and front door and the police were on the way. I didn't have any reason to believe he was lying, but this was strange enough to have me concerned. He told me he'd call me back after speaking with the cops.

A half hour later he returned my call. Apparently it wasn't a dead dog but a raccoon that had been put at his home's entrance. (As if that makes it any better.) Someone had pounded on his door twice to try and get him to open up and discover the unpleasant present. We hadn't been talking much before I could hear him putting the phone aside and yelling through the door of his house. A driver was there to deliver a pizza he hadn't ordered. This was getting weirder by the moment. He broke off the call so he could ring the pizza place and find out who might have ordered it.

He called back again. Using an online reverse telephone directory, he learned that the phone number tied to the order belonged to his neighbors. He suspects that it all may have been a prank meant to be played on the high school kid who lives across the street or that said teen was responsible. If I had gone yarn shopping, I would have missed out on the gift card and the play-by-play intrigue of this odd situation.

In the meantime, Kristin e-mailed me to say that The Yarn Shop wasn't open on Mondays. (Yeah, that was way too much build-up for a punchline. That story was too good, and I had to bring it full circle eventually.)

It occurred to me that I did have some yarn: the splitty yellow practice yarn. I considered looking up how to purl on a knitting help site, but that plan took a backseat when I fell asleep on the couch for an hour. Some stitches were already cast on the bamboo needles I practiced with, so I thought I'd knit with them for awhile. I had no problem knitting for the sake of knitting. In fact, I was curious to see how I'd do with smaller needles and yarn that had presented some challenges as I learned the fundamentals.

The stitches had slipped off the needle from getting jostled in my backpack. I slid them back on, but one was crossed over. It seemed like a good excuse to practice frogging. I unraveled everything back to the slipknot and cast on fourteen stitches. A stitch must have slipped off while I was knitting, so I frogged it all again and cast on twelve. Even with the little I'd done, I could see how the gauge changed with two fewer stitches.

I knitted a couple rows and paid close attention to how each stitch came off the left needle. I wanted to make sure I understood how those stitches were incorporated into the piece and where I would need to put the needle if I had to undo them. It's making more sense. With the right yarn, I think I should be able to undo more stitches.

I know that there isn't a right way to wrap the yarn, but most of what I've seen shows the right hand wrapping it. That's how Kristin does it. Somehow I got into the habit of wrapping with my left hand. Since I was practicing, I tried wrapping with my right hand. I couldn't have felt more uncoordinated. My stitches were a lot looser, and it never felt comfortable. Why would it? I've been doing it the other way for a month.

It may not be important, but I think there's value in learning to wrap with my right hand. I noticed that I was less likely to push the stitch on the left needle onto the right needle when holding the yarn in my right hand. It's not something I do a lot, but it happens from time to time. For now, though, I'll do it the same way I've been doing it.

I didn't do a lot of knitting, but it was soothing nonetheless. It's good to know that I have a fallback knitting option in the event that I'm out of yarn or stuck on a project. Maybe I'll learn to purl this week too. fourth FO, if all goes well.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Stymied by skein joining


I must not be able to summon my knitting superpowers on Sundays. It is supposed to be a day of rest, so maybe I'm not hearing the message.

The past two Sundays the yarn has broken on me. I've dealt with it, and all has been well. Yesterday called for more skein joining, although in this case it was because I had finished the first. No problem. I've done this a few times. What could go wrong?

One thing I've noticed is that if I don't knit every day, I turn stupid when I pick up the needles again. Those first few stitches after a day or two layoff from knitting are the most dangerous ones I can face. I'm not sure why this is. It's happened too regularly for it to be mere coincidence. Maybe I think about it too much. Maybe I don't think about it enough. Whatever the reason, it means I tend to have knitting sessions that are exceedingly short or marathon length. They balance out in the end, I guess, but I would prefer to have moderate to long amounts of time spent knitting than extremely brief attempts.

The first problem was remembering how to join the skeins. Do I want the two ends together, or do I want the end of the first skein and the start of the second skein at opposite ends when I knot the strands? (I hope you understand what I mean here.) I wasn't sure. I tried one way without success and then tried the other way. I tied a double knot to join the skeins, which should have put me on course to finish my mom's scarf. Now I wonder if I was supposed to tie a slipknot instead. I told you that it's like my accumulated knowledge vanishes if I take a day off.

I knitted the first stitch and noticed a problem. I might have pulled the knot and ends through this stitch. There was a big loop hanging down that didn't look right. I attempted to trace where the yarn was going and should go. I tried to undo the stitch, but at this point I had no idea what went where. I undid something a couple times. Somehow I lost the last stitch on the row and redid it twice. It didn't look right. I debated whether I should stop or keep going. My confidence must be building because I decided that if I had to frog back to this point, so be it. Seven inches wouldn't be much to redo.

Based on Kristin's opinion, I've chosen to make the scarf five feet long. I'm not going to change my mind, but I'm still curious to hear what others think is the ideal scarf length. To join the discussion, leave a comment with the others appended to my last post.

I won't need to frog seven inches of scarf because I ran into trouble with the first stitch I knitted. Curses! My heart sank. I was looking forward to having my fourth FO and posting pictures here. (Unlike my third FO, one of the pictures would not have featured me wearing the scarf. I'll try on the furry purple scarf to judge length, but sorry, I'll need a model for any fashion photos. I would look totally absurd.) I'm sure it isn't a major thing to fix, but I was disappointed in myself and disappointed that I was not getting to knit. Better to stop now than really horse things up.

Seriously, this was not the way to end what was otherwise a very good weekend. OK, the Blue Jackets lost two games and the Bengals continue to go down the drain, but my happiness isn't predicated on the outcomes of sporting events. Not that I like to see them lose...

Saturday night Kristin and her husband Paul joined a fellow critic and me at the local film and video festival's awards ceremony. I'm a juror in one of the divisions, which means sheepishly standing up when they recognize us, and our esteemed colleague was one of the emcees.

Basically it's an excuse to dress up a little--or not at all in the case of a couple winners--and enjoy free drinks and appetizers. We watched the winner from my division. In keeping with my festival track record, it was not an entry I judged. Awards and brief speeches were given. Then it was time for all of the sponsor's beer, pinot grigio, and chardonnay you could drink.

The post-Oscars Governors Ball this isn't, although I had a good time. Mostly it was Kristin, Paul, and I sitting around and talking, which was perfectly fine, or the three of us listening to our fellow critic talk, which was okay too. I'm glad to have become friends with them and glad they were able to share in the evening's fun.

It wouldn't be an awards ceremony without one unfortunate outfit to scoff at. A woman at the entrance wore a fur headband and dress with fur trim. And gloves. I guess it was from the Davy Crockett High Society for Women label. Now I wish I had a picture.

Kristin looked elegant in her new black dress and boots and--knitting content alert--a lovely red lace shawl she dyed and knitted herself. Very impressive. I can't imagine how much time it took her to knit the shawl. My contribution to the night's style was a chocolate-colored velvet blazer. From left to right, here are Paul, Kristin, and I looking very glamorous at evening's end. (I forgot I even had that name tag on.)

That and my productive Friday knitting were the good parts of the weekend. Last night's knitastrophe was not so good.

I'm in a bind now. I can't work on this scarf until Kristin can bail me out, and I'm out of yarn. I may make my first solo trip to The Yarn Shop tonight to satisfy my jones, but we'll see how the day goes. (With the insane screening schedule this week, tonight's the only night I can knit without staying up later than I should.) Even if I don't get there this evening, I will need to stock up again, if just to have some on hand for when I attempt to knit in secret at my parents' home for Thanksgiving. be determined.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Knitting superpowers

Please don't hate me.

I mean it. No one likes the overachiever or the person who ruins the curve. I've scanned a few other knitting blogs to know that a common topic is not having enough time to knit. Here I am, the newbie who learned to knit four weeks ago, and I've finished three scarves. Without a doubt, that number will climb to four today or tomorrow. Plus, I've started this knitblog and updated it at least five days a week. I admit that I've been ridiculously productive. I'm hoping that you fellow knitters have gentle hearts and will be happy for me rather than wanting to jab me with your needles.

Which is all my way of leading up to the news that I finished the first skein of yarn for the purple scarf and don't have much more to knit to turn it into an FO. Like I said, please don't hate me.

Kristin knows that I keep pretty busy between work and the movies--which is also work, but let's face it, nobody considers it to be--so I think she's been impressed at how quickly I've picked up knitting. Since I had been having a lot of trouble with the purple scarf, I wanted her to see how it was coming along now that I had figured it out. Yesterday I sent her a photo of my progress. She responded wanting to know if I had superpowers.

If I have any superpowers--and of course I don't--she deserves the credit for helping me to discover and develop them. (In that sense, I told her this must make her Yoda.) There's no secret to how I've been able to knit so much. It's a combination of the Protestant work ethic and enjoying knitting a lot. And one other factor...I'm running a child labor sweat shop out of my apartment.

No, not really. But there are another couple key ingredients. Being single, I'm able to do with my free time as I see fit, which has meant knitting these past weeks. There's also the fact that I have a tendency to stay up later than I should and not get enough sleep. (This is an extreme example, but the night of The Knot, I didn't get to bed until 3 a.m.) I wouldn't say that either of those things are advantages; they're more like the classic superhero burdens. You'll be glad to know that I've chosen to use my powers for good.

Still, the question remains how I was able to charge through a skein of the purple yarn that had tormented me every other time I'd tried to knit it. Honestly, I don't know. I just had a breakthrough. I think it helps that with each scarf I've used slightly less bulky yarn. I've worked my way up to this finer stuff. I took my time with it until I reached a comfort zone where I could go at my normal speed and wrap the yarn tightly. I've been particularly careful with the first two stitches on the needle because that's where problems have arisen the most. Kristin made a good call in putting it on bigger needles and, more importantly, lighter colored needles. I can see the main strands better.

I believe that this yarn knits quickly too. I don't think I spent an inordinate amount of time working on it, but then again, if I'm listening to my iPod and knitting, I lose track of the time easily.

Currently the scarf is 53" inches long. My other three FOs are about six feet long, so I expect this one should be a little longer as well. The difference is that those are for taller people. My mom is 5'4". Since I'm anything but an expert on women's fashion, here's where I need your help. How long should I make this scarf?

I suppose I shouldn't finish it today, if just for the fact that I'll be out of yarn. Monday after work I'll have to venture out and see what I can find. Once my mom's scarf is done, I'll have three left to reach my original goal of seven. Since that number looks well within reach, I may shoot for twelve by Christmas. And yes, one will be for me. fourth FO.

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Return of the Purple Scarf

After sidelining the purple scarf for a little less than a week, I resumed knitting it on Wednesday night. Rather, I resumed messing it up. I ran into a problem on the first row. Somehow I managed to turn one stitch on the left needle into three on the right. I examined it for a sign of what I had done wrong. No luck.

Kristin could give a more informed answer, but I feel like I've picked up knitting quickly. I think I should be doing better than I am with this Katia Duende yarn, so I'm frustrated that I can't knit much of it without encountering problems.

After Thursday morning's Casino Royale screening, Kristin tidied up my stitches. (I also showed her the massive knot that tormented me earlier this week.) I left determined to knit this scarf without more of the same problems. I don't want to bother her with it after what seems like every row. Also, I don't have any other yarn, so it's this or nothing for the time being.

Thursday night I intended to make a pie for Kristin and her huband--Toll House/chocolate chip, if you're curious--but I discovered that I didn't have enough shortening for a crust. (An early run to the grocery store allowed me to make it this morning.) Instead I used the time to knit. I'm pretty much over my initial hang-ups about knitting, but those previous sentences make me sound like a 1950s housewife. Not that there's anything wrong with baking pies, knitting, or being a homemaker.

I knitted deliberately, making sure that I was sliding the right needle through the correct place and doing everything else properly. One of my problems has been putting the needle through the stitch below where it's supposed to go. The stitches have been wrapped tightly around the left needle, which is how they should be, but it means I'm more likely to miss the spot. I've improved some at undoing stitches, but I'm having a hard time seeing where the completed ones are once they've jumped off the left needle.

I finished a row, half held my breath as I counted it, and found that everything was fine. It's a start. I knitted at a turtle's pace, which helped me catch a couple mistakes before it was too late. One of the reasons I wanted to learn how to knit was so I could slow down. This yarn was giving me a prime opportunity to do that.

Gradually I increased my speed, not by much but some. I started making the stitches tighter so the scarf wouldn't be too loose. I looked at the beginning and feared that I'd finish the project and realize I needed to frog the entire thing. I found that one row had fifteen stitches. Two were very close together. I decided that I'd knit them as one on the next row and hope for the best. (This is called decreasing, right?) There was no way I'd be able to undo four or five stitches. Knitting those two together worked, and I went along until my project was a foot long.

You have no idea how happy this modest success made me. I've been struggling with this scarf since I began it. Kristin frogged it once, and this is the third pair of needles it's been on. I think everything's going to be okay now, but I ought to cross my fingers when I say that. The yarn is so soft and light. I think the final result will be terrific. If all continues to go well, maybe, just maybe, I can finish it this weekend. continues on scarf #4.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My Third FO

Undeterred by the previous night's fun with knots, I knitted in earnest on my third scarf. I live close enough to work that I often walk home for lunch. I ate a quick meal and knitted for the rest of the break. I didn't have a lot to do in the office, and practically no one was around. I had to come in early today, which is usually a long day anyway, so I made sure it was fine with my boss that I take off in mid-afternoon. These are the days when it pays to be a salaried worker.

What to do with the extra time... You better believe I knitted. Why wouldn't I? My productivity has skyrocketed since I started knitting, and it's not just in cranking out projects. If you've been keeping up with this blog for its short existence, then you know I haven't exactly been afflicted with writer's block. I feel recharged, and the words are flowing, both here and in my writing for work.

I'm enjoying writing on a more personal level, and I really appreciate my wonderful readers. That anyone takes the slightest interest in my beginner's rambles and tangents is sort of amazing. I intend to post daily updates during the week like I've been doing or until I start running out of things to say. So you know, often I am trying to be funny.

Contrary to what you might think, I'm typically pegged as a quiet person. It's not an unfounded observation either. I've been such a chatterbox here for two related reasons. I'm excited about knitting. Naturally, I want to talk about it. That's hard to do in offline life, a.k.a. the real world, since I'm the secret knitter.

On that front, I'm leaning toward staying "secret" on this blog even after giving the Christmas gifts I'm making. (Obviously the jig will be up then with family and friends. Those readers who want to know who I am can get the answer by following a link in my introductory post.) I'm not embarrassed to like knitting, but I feel like the pseudo-anonymity frees me to be more open. I also like the protection it provides from my students potentially stumbling in here.

Anyway, back to scarf #3. The rest of the afternoon I knitted and knitted and knitted. My right index finger has a sore spot from repeatedly placing it on the left needle when removing the old stitch. (Kristin tells me I can expect a callus.) No pain, no gain, as the sports world likes to preach. The work has been worth it. I finished the scarf about an hour before I needed to be at a nearby movie theater for the screening of Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny.

I really like the yarn I used for this scarf--one skein of dye lot 23 and one of 05--and think the color variation turned out very well. Great idea Kristin! She didn't need to be called in for any emergency fixes on this one, so there's some progress. She shouldn't feel like those repairs are now a thing of the past, though. I have one for her in my backpack right now.

After the film I showed Kristin my latest FO. It met her approval, which is always reassuring, and she took a photo of me wearing the scarf in the parking lot. (Where else would be better?) I've never been fond of having my picture taken and resisted the idea of uploading it here. (And no, I can't explain why I feel like this yet don't think twice about being on a television show that airs a ridiculous number of times.) But you've caught me in the right mood, I guess, because I've published it below. Maybe it's the snazzy new glasses that make me look less like what I'm used to.

How about another view of the scarf?

And a close-up of the stitches for good measure...

Respectable for someone who has been knitting not quite a month, right?

Next...revisiting the purple scarf.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Mother of All Knots

So how did you spend last night?

I had the rare Tuesday evening without a screening, so I planned to take advantage of the free time and knit a lot. I thought that if I put my mind to it, I might be able to finish my third scarf. Sure, it was probably a stretch to think I could knit half of the project in one night, but it gave me a goal.

My knitting was going along smoothly, and I felt energized to stay up late. Could I really knit half a scarf in one night? I doubt it, but who knows what I might have done if I hadn't been stubborn and done something that seemed pretty dumb in the heat of the moment and really stupid this morning.

Previously on Knitting Confidential I mentioned that Kristin got me started on this scarf by having the yarn come from the middle of the skeins. That had been working great. I ran into a small tangle but got it straightened out without incident. Last night I encountered another knotted mass, but I wasn't concerned. Periodically I pulled some yarn out of it to give me more to knit. This was fine for a short time, but it got to the point where I needed to untangle the clump.

What I didn't realize then was that I had met The Mother of All Knots. It wasn't a bad situation; it was unwinnable. Mildly annoyed at the inconvenience of having my progress interrupted, I tugged and picked at the yarn. A little would come undone, but for all I know, with as much yarn as was bound up in this, I may have been making it worse.

There are times when you should know when to cut your losses--literally, in this case--and move on. If I knew then what I know now... After an hour of attempting to undo the knots, I should have given up and used the scissors to solve the problem. Unfortunately, the longer it took to undo them, the more determined I was that my effort wouldn't be in vain.

It took a long time to get to the core knot, and it didn't seem like it wanted to budge. Great, I have the Gordian knot in my yarn, or at least one of those that seems to be part of a challenge on Survivor every season. At one point I counted seven strands coming out of this tight little ball. A couple times I thought I might have it solved, but nope, there would be none of that. I was able to pull it apart into a central circle, but there were at least four tight knots ringing it.

I hadn't wanted to cut the yarn because I didn't know how much would be lost. The yarn was going every which way but loose, and I hated to chop off a bunch if it wasn't necessary. Like it or not, there was no way I was going to undo it. After two incredibly foolish hours of pulling and prodding at the knot, I took the scissors and cut the yarn. I'd listened to at least half of The Cure's Greatest Hits and all of The Decemberists' The Crane Wife on my iPod, and all I had to show for it was six feet or so of severed yarn.

Needless to say, I did not finish the scarf.

At the end of my last post I hinted that I recalled some knitting history in my family. My paternal grandmother, who I knew very well, was a quilter--she may have done some needlepoint too--but I don't think she knitted. I think my maternal grandmother might have knitted. She died when I was in elementary school--second grade, perhaps--so my recollection isn't the best. Yet memories come to us in the strangest ways.

Sunday at church the sermon was drawn from the book of Ruth. That doesn't have anything to do with anything, except that my grandma's name was Ruth. With my focus on knitting, my brain must have decided to do a Boolean search for "knitting" and "Ruth". Before long it occurred to me that she made the Christmas stockings that have been hung at home for as long as I can remember. They're definitely knitted. She made teddy bears for me and my brothers, so I know she sewed. While logic doesn't follow that those who sew also knit, I'm pretty confident that she knitted those stockings. I'd ask my mom, but since I'm trying to keep my knitting a secret, how does that question come up in the course of conversation?

There's no point to this story other than it was nice to be reminded of her. I wish that this was something we could have been able to share. I imagine both of my grandmas would have been surprised and pleased that I've become a knitter. So there's a heartwarming tidbit to offset that business with the knot.

Next...if all goes well, my third FO.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Knitting and TV

With last week's setback out of the way, I'm as good as new. Progress on my dad's scarf is coming along at a good clip. When the day comes that I can watch television and knit at the same time, I'll be cranking out scarves in no time.

I tried this multitasking over the weekend, but more often than not I was listening more than watching. Shows that use visual storytelling the most--Lost and The Office, for instance--are out of the question. They demand full attention and nothing less.

Reality TV is a good starting point. Survivor and The Amazing Race don't require such close viewing, although the travelogue aspect of the latter makes it harder for me to pull my eyes away. When American Idol and The Apprentice return--The Donald's vanity project is coming back, right?--I'll have two excellent candidates for knitting accompaniment. (I've come close to swearing off The Apprentice, but there's something oddly fascinating in watching Type A personalities bump against one another. And of course there's Trump himself, whose total lack of humility or consistency is hilarious.)

Believe it or not, sporting events may be the best programming I've found to knit to. Hockey has too much action, but the two intermissions provide a good window for knitting. If the score is lopsided, which has unfortunately been the case too often with the Blue Jackets, I have no qualms about knitting while listening to the third period come to its merciful conclusion.

Football may be the best. There's a lot of down time between plays, a fact that's painstakingly clear if you've attended an NFL contest in person. The breaks in action mean that most plays can be seen in replay once or twice, so if you miss something, chances are it'll be shown again. (It's also where having the cable company's DVR comes in hand. One press of the button skips back ten seconds, and another press jumps forward to live action.) I wouldn't be surprised if 40-50% of a football game's time is filled with commercials, which is prime knitting time. The way the Cincinnati Bengals have been playing lately, knitting offsets the frustration of their maddening inconsistency.

Baseball season is months off, but there's another sport with even less game play for the time it takes. Similar to hockey, basketball has fewer interuptions in the action, except for the final minute or two that take an eternity to play if the game's close. (Double that for NCAA Tournament games.) Then again, aside from the postseason, I don't watch as much basketball on TV as I used to unless the stray Dayton Flyers game pops up. (I much prefer college hoops to the pros. The NBA doesn't interest me.)

I enjoy watching soccer, but I tend to overdose on the World Cup and not see much else. I'll watch the Columbus Crew if there's nothing better on and I have nothing better to do. Their problem is that MLS is not an elite level, and the hometown team has been mediocre or worse for too long.

For now I'm more likely to knit and have the TV on as background noise or listen to music. (I'm working on a knitting playlist for my iPod. I'll share when I think I have it perfected.) Yet there's nothing wrong with knitting in silence, hearing the occasional click of the needles and getting lost in the work. Actually, it's quite nice to escape from the daily soundtrack, be it the ambient hum of electronics and life around us or the babble of inconsiderate moviegoers at the theater.

Next...remembering knitting background in the family?

Monday, November 06, 2006

A change of plans

I'm three weeks into life as a knitter, and I've met my match in this Katia Duende yarn. After four days, I've knitted a grand total of three and a half inches. Worse, I keep messing it up and need rescuing.

Friday brought a morning screening and a chance to have Kristin see the latest carnage from my efforts. The streets of Bexley hosted this repair, although this time we were smart enough to get in a vehicle instead of staying out in the cold. (We were already chilled to the bone from the seemingly unheated theater.) She played with the scarf until she was able to undo my errors. After she fixed it, she agreed that my decision to issue a temporary surrender and start a different project was for the best.

I'm not abandoning work on this scarf, just setting it aside for when I feel I'm up to the challenge. It can be a change of pace from other projects rather than my primary object. Is this the next step in my growth as a knitter? Now I'll have two projects going at once.

Taking a break on my mom's purple scarf doesn't mean I'm returning to bulkier yarn. This next scarf, the new #3, will be made from worsted weight Fantasy Dark Horse Yarns in dark green. The twist is that I will be wrapping two strands at the same time. The skeins have different dye lots, so there will be a subtle variation.

Kristin cast on the first stitch to my US 11s and prepared the skeins so the yarn is pulled from the middle. I meant to ask her if all skeins can be unraveled this way. (I've taken off the wrapper and rooted around for an end.) As I've found while knitting this scarf, it keeps the yarn neater and tighter.

My weekend was mostly free, so I intended to get a lot of knitting done. It took me a little while to build up my speed, but once I got going, there was no stopping me. OK, that's not entirely true. I encountered a couple situations in which I had to undo a stitch, but with this yarn I finally started to see how that was executed. It's still something I have to think about and am not always confident in doing, but I think it's sinking in...slowly.

I'm knitting fourteen stitches per row for this scarf. Initially I thought that was enough, but a few rows in I noticed it wasn't as wide as I expected. It's about a half inch narrower than my FOs. I didn't want to frog what I had completed. Even though two more stitches per row wouldn't hurt, I decided that it looked okay.

You might be wondering why I didn't notice this gauge issue from the swatch. The answer is simple. I haven't knitted any swatches yet. Do I need to sit in the corner for not following the rules? Kristin has mentioned the need to knit swatches but hasn't gone into any detail about it. The first two yarns I used had good guidelines, so swatches weren't necessary.

My knitting was coming along well until I realized that one of the two strands had broken. This must be a Sunday thing because it's happened two weeks in a row. Unlike my previous mid-skein crisis, I didn't have a lot of extra yarn for a tail. Actually, I undid three or four stitches to give me some yarn to work with and put me at the end of a row. I tied a slipknot to connect the broken ends and resumed knitting.

I'm maybe a third of the way done with this scarf, but I really like how it's looking. My initial thought was that it would be for one of my brothers. In a way, it's perfect for him. He's the one who tried to duck giving an answer for his favorite color because there are millions of colors when you account for shades. Since this scarf has two shades of green, I can tease him that I tried to find one he'd like.

I'm leaning toward giving this one to my dad, though. One thing I think I've been good at as a writer is keeping the audience in mind. Obviously there isn't an audience for a knitted article, but I think it helps to know who the intended recipient is. It certainly matters in choosing the yarn. Silly as it sounds, I like the idea that keeping the receiver in mind while knitting helps the object reach its Platonic ideal. After all, when it comes to gift giving, don't we always hear that it's the thought that counts?

Next...who knows? I'm caught up to the present.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Bonus knitting

In a roundabout way, Sacha Baron Cohen is responsible for my modest progress on scarf #3. The Borat star was supposed to be in town Thursday to tape an appearance on the visting production of The Daily Show. The regional advertising firm promoting his film set up a Borat pep rally at Ohio State prior to the taping. As a member of the media, I was invited to shoot the craziness.

I chose not to solicit any student help because the event was taking place during crunch time before our weekly newscast. I'm sure I wouldn't have had any trouble finding a willing volunteer, but I would have been a bad executive producer to pull someone off a more important task. I knew Kristin might like to tag along. She wasn't quite as high on Borat as I was after two viewings, but she enjoyed it a lot. She accepted my invitation to join me as my assistant--I'd have her carry some batteries or a tripod--and we planned to meet at 3:30 at the movie theater about a mile from the event location.

Meanwhile, I received a call informing me that the 4:00 check-in was pushed back due to an unspecified reason. It was a cold afternoon, and there was no sense in standing outside for any time longer than was necessary. Kristin and I popped into the coffee shop to warm up and talk while we waited. The publicist called shortly after 4:00 to say that Cohen's plane had just left New York City. Keep in mind that the event had been scheduled for 4:30-5:30, and The Daily Show people wanted him at 5:30. It doesn't take an air traffic controller to foresee that this Borat pep rally was probably going to occur without the guest of honor.

What else could we do? Knit in public, of course! Since we were going to stay in the area after the event for a Flushed Away screening, I'd brought my knitting in case we had a lot of extra time. Of course Kristin had some of her own as well, so we shifted to an available table and started knitting.

Despite my attempts to make friends with the purple yarn, it was behaving like an adversary. I would knit a couple stitches, or maybe as much as a row, before needing Kristin's assistance. I slowed my pace more, working as deliberately and attentively as possible. I made some headway but not nearly at the rate at which I knitted my first two scarves.

While we sat there working on our projects, an older woman approached us to say how happy she was to see us knitting. She asked if we were doing something for charity. Kristin told her that we were knitting Christmas gifts. I'm sure this woman would have fallen over in delight if Kristin had said that as a matter of fact we were knitting winter essentials for orphans.

This was the first time anyone said anything to me (or both of us) while I was knitting in public. I've been surprisingly at ease doing this, and it's fun to knit, talk, and listen. As much as I've enjoyed the times Kristin and I have knitted in public, I wouldn't be caught dead doing it on my own. I've gained some confidence but not that much. Kristin has mentioned something to the effect that women will like that I'm a knitter. (I have a sense that this stranger got a kick out of seeing me fumbling with the needles.) That's not why I'm doing it, but I won't complain if it makes me look better. I can use all the help I can get, although hopefully knitting has more cachet with women a few decades too young for AARP.

I received one more phone call from the publicist, who told me that there was almost no chance of Cohen/Borat making an appearance. The next day I heard that approximately one thousand people turned out for the event--very nice!--but didn't get to see the comedian. His flight didn't land until almost 6:00. (He made it to The Daily Show for a so-so performance in character.)

As it turned out, Borat wasn't the only no-show for the evening. Kristin's husband was supposed to join us for Flushed Away but couldn't make it. We still had plenty of time on our hands, and Barnes & Noble was just a short walk from the coffee shop. Kristin pointed out the books reviewed on her site--not all of them, mind you, although several new releases made the grade--and showed me the knitting books and magazines. On casual observation, it appears that there are more books about knitting for dogs than those aimed at male knitters. (My mom would love it, but so help me, I don't know that I can knit for my parents' pet.) And who knew there were so many knitting magazines?

After getting a quick dinner, seeing the movie, and lugging back to the station the thousands of dollars of video equipment that had been in my trunk, I tried to work some more on my third scarf. Any bets on what happened? That's right, not long after I picked up the needles I messed up and couldn't figure out what needed to be fixed.

Next..scarf #3 is put on hiatus.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

The Secret Knitter vs. Katia Duende

My first two knitted scarves have been completed with relative ease. There were some bumps in the road and necessary stealth interventions, but all things considered, I got them done without facing any major problems.

As is often the case in life, those things that demand the hardest work can be the most rewarding. Or they simply make you want to scream. I have a feeling there's going to be a lot of frustration and a tremendous sense of accomplishment as I duel with my gorgeous opponent, the purple Katia Duende yarn. (The name sounds like it belongs to an alluring Spanish actress.) Living up to its name, "duende" can translate as "the ability to attract others through personal magnetism and charm", "a ghost, an evil spirit", and "inspiration".

True, it's for the best not to look at this yarn as an opponent. Obviously I'm going to have an easier time if I work with it rather than fight it. I paid attention in my nonwestern religion class--okay, I paid attention in all my classes--and always liked how Taoism, in simplified terms, emphasizes going with the flow. Acknowledging what is beyond your control and letting go of it is a main tenet of many religions, but I suppose I've linked it with this eastern one. After all, is this that different from Matthew 6:25-34? (That's not to say I'm always very good at practicing it.) This yarn is going to test my patience, but I expect it will be worth it in the end.

I wanted to start knitting it almost as soon as I bought it. I can't wait to see how the two skeins evolve into a beautiful scarf, even if the process takes as long as evolution itself. This is finer, furrier yarn than I've used, which presents an immediate challenge. The label indicated that US 8s should be used. I don't own anything smaller than 10s, so Kristin suggested I try 10 1/2s or 11s. She also gave me input on how many stitches I might want to cast on. There wasn't a hard and fast answer, so it meant I would have to experiment and discover the right number myself.

I decided to begin with the deep blue US 10 1/2 needles. I cast on the stitches, which tended to bunch up quickly, and tried to gauge the width when I had finished twelve. It looked a little too narrow, so I cast on three more until the width looked right to me. So far, so good, although trouble was in view. In addition to the stitches possibly being cast on too tightly, the dark needles and smaller gauge were giving me a devil of a time figuring out what were the individual stitches. I made an educated guess that the black threads were what I wanted to count and hoped the purple eyelash threads swirling around these main lines would cooperate when I started knitting.

Somehow I ended up knitting one or two stitches twice and dropping another one or two. The numbers evened out, though! I was taking my time, but seeing where I needed to put the needle and getting it there was problematic. I knit a couple rows on Monday night before setting it aside for another time.

Tuesday night was even less productive. After knitting one row, it was apparent that my project was in need of frogging. (What a great word.) There wasn't much to rip out, which minimized the pain of undoing work, but having never done it, I waited for an expert to show me how.

That means it's time for another edition of Kristin's Parking Garage Knit Fixes. (Be sure to get your tickets for a to be announced tour stop at Easton.) I've been keeping my knitting hush-hush, but with all of these knitting repairs amid parked cars, practically half of Columbus has witnessed my secret. There was a big potential audience this time as exiting cars were backed up for a significant amount of time after the Borat screening. (The film is hysterically funny and oh so wrong in many ways. And yes, how strange that I'm referencing Scripture and praising this crude comedy in the same post.) Maybe the passers-by thought it was some comedic stunt in the spirit of the film.

Kristin agreed that frogging was in order and proceeded to unravel my knitting. It fell apart so delicately, which seemed contrary to "ripping out". Some of the stitches didn't want to separate because the colored slubs created knots in the yarn, but she worked out most of the trouble spots until approaching a cluster of knots near the cast-on stitches. She patiently traced how the yarn was knotted, but it wasn't coming undone. Since this wasn't a lot of yarn to lose, out came the scissors.

She thought the 11s might make the yarn easier to knit, so she held the skein while I cast on the stitches. Like the 10 1/2s, the violet US 11s made it difficult to see the black strands. Kristin thought I might have an easier time going up another needle size. Plus, the US 13s are pink, which solved the problem of being able to see the black strands. She cast on fourteen stitches to the larger needles, and I was good to go. For that matter, so was she. The parking garage traffic had thinned out considerably. Sacha Baron Cohen's last-minute flight led to a knitting in public opportunity.