Sunday, December 31, 2006

Goodbye 2006

Although nothing magical will happen tonight when the calendar flips from 2006 to 2007, I couldn't be happier about bringing this year to an end. It has been trying on a lot of fronts, and I feel like I could use the fresh start that a new year brings.

As much as I dislike moving, it's very likely that in 2007 I will look for a new place to call home. I've lived in my current apartment for a long time, but the last couple days have been the proverbial straw that broke the camel's back. The noise issue I've written about previously has marginally improved, but it has also brought more hostility my direction. It's the little things too: having my parking space taken, my newspaper stolen, and my trash can used by others who then don't bother to put the lid on or set it by the curb. I don't feel comfortable at home any longer, and I don't believe there's anything the landlord will or can do about it. How I hate feeling like some cantankerous old man griping about whippersnappers.

I'll have to check, but I'm pretty sure my current lease runs through May. At this particular time that seems like an eternity, but it'll give me time to pack everything and throw out what I don't need. I'm not holding my breath, but maybe the college students living here won't generate as much noise when classes resume. They hardly seem like dedicated academics, but with all this idle time during December, they've been nothing but a nuisance. I've already looked at some places online today. While I'll undoubtedly see a rent increase, it'll be worth it to have some peace of mind.

I suppose it's only appropriate to have the year play out with me feeling wiped out. I had RSVP'd for a New Year's Eve party tonight but was going to back out because I'm not really feeling up to it. With the early start my neighbors are on, I know that it's probably best that I'm not here, so I've decided to go. They'll likely still be making a racket whenever I return, but it'll be a break from the thrum of the stereo and voices in the apartment next to mine for a few hours.

Sorry for the venting. I feel like I've done a lot of complaining here. That isn't what I want to do.

Since I had agreed two months ago to stat the eight basketball games over the past two days, a decision that had me wanting to curl up in the fetal position and die as the games plodded along, knitting has been slow this week. To help block out the quieter but still plainly audible party next door, I listened to my iPod and knitted in the farthest corner of my apartment. I knitted a good deal during this afternoon's Bengals game, another heartbreaker from a team that trafficks in them, and am almost done with the first ball. I still need to figure out how I can get the other hank into a ball with just two hands. So far, so good with this scarf.

And that puts a cap on a year that has been a struggle but has not been all bad. After all, look what knitting has brought me. :)

I feel battered but have hope that this upcoming year will be better. I also wish the best for you in 2007. Happy new year!

Next...hello 2007.

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Six weird things about me

Jennifer tagged me to participate in the weirdness meme, and I'm finally able to catch up to it.

1. Among things I don't eat, popcorn, hot dogs, and eggs are the common foods I don't touch. I was a picky eater as a kid. I've expanded what I will eat now, but these three items are holdovers from that time. I'm fairly certain I tried all of them at some point. I haven't felt a need to reassess if I'd like these foods. It seems especially weird to people that I'm a movie critic and don't eat popcorn. What I do eat at the movies? Nothing usually, although I'll have coffee and a dougnut or muffin if it's a morning screening. I eat meat, so there's no philosophical objection to hot dogs. As for eggs, I mean eggs as the primary dish, not anything with eggs in it. Whether in an omelet or made scrambled, sunny side up, or countless other ways, I'm not interested in any of them.

2. For the last year, whenever I have gone through the Dayton area, I stop to stock up on the ginger-flavored soft drink Ale-8-One. I came across "Kentucky's soft drink" a couple years ago when driving through the Bluegrass State. When I learned that Ale-8-One's limited distribution crept as far north as Dayton, I called the sales center to find out where it was available. Any time I've gone home or been headed west, I stop at a grocery store in Springfield near I-70 to replenish my supply. As far as I know, the beverage's biggest national exposure came when Orlando Bloom wore an Ale-8-One t-shirt in Elizabethtown.

3. I find the sound of typing very soothing. I also love the sounds of hockey. Hearing the skates on the ice, sticks hitting the puck and ice, and the puck and players hitting the boards is pleasurable for some reason. As much as I like basketball, I could do without the relentless shoe-squeaking.

4. When getting a magazine or newspaper, I never take the top copy. I have no idea why.

5. I can recite all fifty states in alphabetical order. In junior high choir we learned "Fifty Nifty United States". (Until I found the link for the lyrics, I never knew Ray Charles wrote the song.) Most of the other lyrics have vanished from my memory, but I can still rattle off every state from Alabama to Wyoming.

6. I am not crazy about getting in natural bodies of water because I don't like the thought of fish touching me. I've been in the ocean, although it was with some reservations, but I don't recall swimming in any lakes. I imagine a lot of it has to do with not being able to see what's in the water, but when the family would go fishing, someone else would have to take the fish off my hook because I didn't want to touch them.

I'm supposed to tag six other people, but since I don't know that many who read this site (and Ruth has already participated), I'll tag Donna and second Jennifer's motion for Kristin to share when she gets the time.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Wrapping the holidays

My Christmas scarves are my pride and joy, so it is very tempting to leave my 12 FOs-plus-one post as the latest entry for a few days. But onward we go...

Moving day for my parents came with a sense of dread that it was going to be a neverending task and a chill in the air. (I was glad I had finished my scarf. I needed it.) I had gone through my things and packed almost every available inch in my Saturn with stuff I deemed worth keeping. I chose to throw out more than I kept, for what it's worth. My mom seemed to find more stuff to get me to take--my baby pictures and kitchenware, for instance--but more often than not I was resigned to saying I didn't want whatever it was.

They hounded all of us kids about going through old toys. While it might have been nice to salvage some childhood possessions, I didn't feel like digging through the mountainous piles in their basement. I decided that I wouldn't miss what I didn't remember. Call it denial if you will, but it seemed like a good strategy to me.

My dad arrived with the rental truck around ten in the morning, and I was enlisted to help load my mom's possessions from her office at the church. I carried box after box and darkened my mood by thinking about how long it was going to take to load everything in their house. Actually, it was apparent to me that everything in their home would not fit in the truck and the family members' cars in the moving caravan.

Much to my relief, some men from the church showed up to assist with loading. Their charity made the day go by faster and smoother. It probably kept my head from exploding too. If I wanted a way to break my pack rat tendencies, seeing the truck fill up while the house remained relatively full may have done the trick.

Two of the farmers' wives prepared lunch at the church, providing a much-needed meal and break. We returned to the parsonage to get the last of the big items loaded, and then it was departure time. My parents' new home is about three hours from where they've been living, so unloading that night and making a return trip the next day to load the rest of their possessions had not been in the original plan.

Here was where I parted from them, though. I had to work on Thursday. I didn't feel bad about leaving. I was already worn out when I came back for Christmas. With moving preparations and the stress of being around seven other people in a small house all day for a few days, it wasn't the most restful time off. (Do this math: eight people, one shower.) I had done my part, and they would likely receive help from the members at my mom's new church. As much as I dreaded helping with the move, it wasn't as bad as I'd built it up to be, but if or when they move again, I hope it isn't at this time of year.

On Thursday I intended to get cracking on some writing, but I needed an afternoon and evening to recharge my batteries. I took a nap. I watched the Blue Jackets game and a few MI-5 episodes that had been sitting on my DVR for a couple months. And yes, I knitted.

I began work on another scarf for myself, this time with Knit Picks Sierra yarn in leaf. For the bulky weight yarn I moved down a needle size, casting on fourteen stitches to my US 10 1/2s. My brain must be scrambled because I deduced that if I used a smaller gauge needle, I would need the same amount or fewer stitches to get the same width I obtained from 11s. It wasn't until I'd knitted the size of a swatch that I realized my faulty reasoning.

Several of the scarves I've made have been approximately 4.25" wide. This one is closer to 4". I reached a crucial decision-making point: keep going or frog it? I really like what I've knitted so far, so the idea of ripping it out is unappealing. On the other hand, will I be bothered that the scarf isn't quite as wide as I intended? I put off any rash decisions for the evening. This morning I placed the knitting on top of my cranberry scarf, and the difference appears to be negligible. Good.

I haven't made any other progress (or regress via frogging) with the dishcloth. I'll probably alternate the projects for some variety over the next few days. I will need to wrap my second hank of the Knit Picks Sierra into a ball. Anyone have some good tips for doing this on your own?

Next...answering the six weird things about me meme.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

The 12 FOs of Christmas and one for me

How serendipitous! My number of FOs for Christmas matches the number of days of the holiday. (I'm not counting my own scarf in the mix. I didn't finish it until after Christmas, and anyway, it would blow the accidental seasonal tie-in.) With no further ado, here are the details with the happy recipients in most cases.

FO #1
Yarn: Lion Brand Yarn Chenille Thick & Quick (91% acrylic, 9% rayon; super bulky)
Color: Scarlet
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 12

FO #2
Yarn: Patons Melody Quick & Cozy (100% acrylic; super bulky)
Color: Bright blue
Needles: US 15s
Stitches: 13

My first two scarves were for my brother and his wife. They went to the front of the line for no other reason than I found yarn that matched the colors I wanted on that first shopping trip. I still wish my brother's scarf looked better up close, but he seemed pleased with it. My second scarf was better. Since my sister-in-law was the most complimentary, I wish I'd been able to do a nicer job with hers, but that's just my perfectionist streak.

FO #3
Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: 5 and 23 (shades of green)
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14

FO #4
Yarn: Katia Duende (82% polyamide, 18% acrylic; worsted weight eyelash yarn)
Color: Purple with multicolored slubs
Needles: US 13s
Stitches: 14

My dad's scarf was where my knitting started to click...after I'd taken a hiatus on my mom's scarf. I'm not sure why he's wearing it the way he is, but hey, whatever works for him. My mom doesn't look too thrilled in this picture, so it's a good thing I have another one of her. In the above photo she's wearing both scarves I knitted for her.

FO #5
Yarn: Reynolds Utopia (100% acrylic; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: 10 (blue)
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14

It doesn't show much in the photo, but there is a hint of silver mixed into the blue yarn.

FO #6
Yarn: Katia Duende (82% polyamide, 18% acrylic; worsted weight eyelash yarn)
Color: Purple with multicolored slubs
Needles: US 15s
Stitches: 7

Not that she'll know that these pictures are online, but my mom would be more pleased with this one.

FO #7
Yarn: Plymouth Encore (75% acrylic, 25% wool; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: 6002 and 6003 (shades of brown)
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14

Also known as a true secretly knitted scarf. This is the brother who put his gifts to my other brothers in wooden cases.

FO #8
Yarn: Lion Brand Yarn Wool-Ease Chunky (80% acrylic, 20% wool; bulky)
Color: Grass
Needles: US 10 1/2s
Stitches: 18

This is the brother who couldn't make things easy and specify a shade of green but gave a wavelength frequency range instead. To him this was more logical than saying he'd prefer light, dark, kelly, or forest green, to name a few. More logical only to him, I mean.

FO #9
Yarn: Patons Shetland Chunky (75% acrylic, 25% wool; bulky)
Color: Medium blue
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 14

FO #10
Yarn: Lion Brand Yarn Lion Cashmere Blend (72% merino wool, 14% cashmere, 14% nylon; worsted weight)
Color: 110 (medium blue)
Needles: US 10s
Stitches: 18
Pattern: Basketweave scarf

These scarves went to my friend Paul and his wife. (She got the fancier basketweave scarf.) I didn't get photos, so these will have to suffice.

FO #11
Yarn: Bernat Satin (100% acrylic; worsted weight double wrapped)
Colors: Admiral and Silk
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14
Pattern: 2-color scarf

I changed the pattern by making it narrower and not as long. This scarf is headed to my friend Royce in Seattle. With the unseasonably warm weather we're having here, he may need this more than any of the other scarf recipients.

FO #12
Yarn: Dark Horse Yarns-Fantasy (50% nylon, 50% acrylic; worsted weight double wrapped)
Colors: 14, 15, and 16 (shades of blue)
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14
Pattern: Variation on the 2-color scarf

All the details on my variation on the pattern are here. Of all the scarves I've knitted, this is probably my favorite. It features some of my best knitting, and I was very pleased to see that what I envisioned for the design turned out as well as it did.

FO #13
Yarn: Knit Picks Andean Silk (55% superfine alpaca, 23% silk, 22% merino wool; worsted weight double wrapped)
Color: Cranberry
Needles: US 11s
Stitches: 14

I got this done just in time. It was fairly cold early this morning, and I put the scarf to good use. If I ever need an author photo for a book's dust jacket, this would work quite nicely.

So there you have 'em, twelve scarves I gave as Christmas gifts and one I made for myself. I hope you've enjoyed reading what I've had to say as I've knitted them and seeing the finished objects. I can't imagine what the last couple months would have been like without all this knitting, and I'm ready to get started on more projects.

Next...wrapping up the holiday with the family.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

The day after

Knitting had me looking forward to this year's Christmas in a way I hadn't in a long time. I was putting a lot of thought and energy into what I was giving--knitting scarves was a long lead project, after all--and I was giddy with the joy of knitting.

That excitement took a hit when I found out that my parents would be moving at Christmas. This is a repeat of six years ago, although it's not like they had a choice in either case. My mom got a job at another church and was/is to start the new position effective January 1. Still, at the end of a stressful month and a roller coaster year, I was hoping to ease into the end of 2006, not have the holidays dampened with thoughts of sorting through old things, packing, and loading.

It didn't help that my pre-Christmas December was a blur of screenings and other work. As I prepared to travel to be with my family, I was near my breaking point. Before arriving I told my mom in no uncertain terms that I was in no mood for any chop-busting from anyone and that I had been dreading the holiday because their imminent move meant relaxing would not be an option. (Yeah, I know, what a festive attitude.) While she wasn't as sympathetic over the phone as I would have liked, I think the message got through. Today was the day to pack, and she didn't belabor the point that my help was needed.

In other words, when I was asked to do something, I did it. (If I were a better person, I would have done it without the internal grumbling but so be it.) If I wasn't given anything to do, I wasn't nagged for sitting around or knitting. It turns out that there was more time for knitting than I estimated, a happy development in what I was counting on being a lousy day. Sure, I'm tired and trying to block out what's going to be a draining Wednesday, but I now have knitted a scarf to call my own.

The big question about this scarf was whether or not I would be able to finish it today, although the matter had nothing to do with time. I bought four balls of Knit Picks Andean Silk in cranberry and assumed that the yardage would be plenty for a scarf 72-78" long. Not so. After two balls of the worsted weight yarn I was double wrapping, I had around 33". The numbers didn't magically change as I neared the ends of the other two balls.

I momentarily considered placing an order for more yarn and leaving the scarf in limbo until the additional balls arrived. Knit Picks ships from a warehouse in town, but assuming the best, I probably wouldn't receive the yarn until Saturday. In the worst case scenario, it wouldn't get to my door until Tuesday because of the New Year's holiday. Although I wanted the scarf to be six inches to a foot longer and have fringe, waiting that long was unacceptable. I wanted a scarf for myself, and I wanted it now.

So I knitted as much of the remaining yarn as I could, bound off, wove in the ends, and had my own scarf. Do I love it? Yes. The color is beautiful and looks very good against my blue coat. The slightly shorter length hasn't bothered me so far, and I don't think I'll miss what I could have added on if I were more patient. I'll be sure to post a photo (and pictures of the other completed scarves, some with their owners) when I get home and have had some time to make the necessary tweaks.

There was other work to be done, but later this evening I took a stab at knitting a dishcloth. I printed off this pattern and made my own adjustments. (The pattern calls for 46 stitches on US 7s. I cast on 40 stitches on US 8s.) After knitting one repeat, my gauge appears to be way off. It's supposed to be nine inches. I'm at approximately 12 1/2". I was going to stick with what I've done, but now I'm thinking I'll frog it and start over. When I'm feeling sharper I'll have to do the math to get the right number of stitches.

Wednesday brings two things: a moving truck to be loaded and my return trip home. (The latter won't happen until the former is complete.) It's not going to be fun, but I'm catching a break in getting out of any obligations beyond this. I have to work, so I can't make the trip to the other side of the state to unload the truck. Assuming I don't collapse when I get home, I'll update the site with the big post of all my knitting to date.

Next...the twelve FOs of Christmas...and one for me.

Monday, December 25, 2006

The Big Reveal

The big reveal was the big event of Christmas morning. Today I gave my family members the scarves I knitted for them, and it went as well as could be expected. There was no mocking laughter or stunned silence, just a simple offering of thanks.

My mom and sister-in-law were the most impressed and most vocal in expressing their appreciation for my work. The brother who provided the wavelength frequencies for his favorite color was okay with the color of his scarf, even if it probably didn't fall within the range he gave me. My brothers, dad, and great aunt seemed happy with their scarves, which is about as much of a reaction as I can anticipate from this bunch. Asking for a degree of satisfaction is likely to garner a measured response.

It's funny when everyone is together and you start to understand why you are the way you are. From these last couple days I can see why I tend to be a worrier, although it's something I've been trying to work on this year, and why I have a sarcastic streak. With eight people crammed into this tiny house, it can be a bit much, which shouldn't be taken to mean that I don't love my family but rather that it can be tiring to be around them all day for a few days. I trust that this is how it is with most families.

My mom wanted to know why I learned to knit in the first place. I told her that I thought it would make for a nice surprise if I made something for everyone and that Kristin had spoken highly of knitting's ability to relax the knitter. Of course, whenever I mention a woman's name, it follows without fail that the questions "is she single" (no) and "does she have any friends" (yes, although obviously there's more implied than curiosity about her social popularity) will be slung at me. I understand why she asks, but it's the burden of the single person to face these questions when the inquirer acts as if finding a girlfriend/wife is as simple as selecting one off the shelf at the grocery store. (I'm not missing that aisle, am I?)

My mom was pleased with what I made for her, but God bless my sister-in-law for her enthusiasm for what I'd done. She had the most complimentary things to say. Better yet, she paid me the ultimate compliment by wearing the scarf in the slightly cool house. Having made something to be worn, I felt very good to see her wearing it. I felt the same way when Kristin wore her scarf to an evening screening last week.

I wasn't the only sibling to make something to give others, although my presents were intended to be used as is. My youngest brother, the one who usually says very little, encased his gifts to my other two brothers in blocks of wood glued and nailed together. Getting to the actual gifts was quite labor intensive. I got off easy, having mine--a Chinese cleaver, for who knows what reason--wrapped in aluminum foil and paper that was duct taped. And yes, this was in addition to the gift wrap. I'll admit that it was funny, but it took a fair amount of work for my brothers to get those gifts opened.

Since my knitting was no longer a secret from my family, I was free to knit as much as I wanted. You better believe I took advantage of it. I finished the first two balls of worsted weight yarn I'm double wrapping and made decent progress on the next two. I'd like to think I'll finish tomorrow, but I know that packing for my parents' move looms.

My aunt and uncle came over for awhile. If I had known they would be here, I would have knitted scarves for them too. For my aunt, seeing me knitting may have been enough. I didn't know that she knitted, but she had brought hers along. We sat on the couch and knitted while my mom and dad prepared lunch. I could tell that she was tickled that I knew how to knit. I think she said that my uncle knitted was when he was a boy. I confirmed with her and my mom that my maternal grandmother was a knitter. I guess it runs in the family a little.

So Christmas has come and almost gone, and I have to give some credit for the day's success to knitting. As stressful as the run up to the holiday has been, knitting helped ease the tension and gave me a big reason to look forward to the day. The products of my knitting seemed to make others happy. I think that just about says it all.

Next...depends on how much time I spend getting my parents ready to move.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Knitting Secret Reveal Eve

Since I learned to knit a little more than two months ago, I've gone from being very self-conscious about enjoying a hobby commonly associated with old women to feeling comfortable about being a knitter. True, I still feel a little like an interloper when I go into a crafts or yarn store, and I haven't shared my secret with very many people. What's important is that I've found something that means a lot to me regardless of what others might think and that I'm not as concerned with the reactions of these hypothetical disapprovers.

Of course, Christmas day brings the big reveal, so if there's a particularly negative family reaction, who's to say that my confidence won't be diminished? I don't anticipate any major incidents, and it's not like my younger brothers don't already give me crap for all sorts of things, such as my work or weight (although with what I've lost this year, they can't really say anything).

I'm relieved Christmas is almost here because then I can knit to my heart's content. Last night I couldn't find anywhere to knit in secrecy, but today I was able to get a little bit in while my brothers were deep frying a turkey outside. It's a shame I couldn't knit in the open today because Sundays have usually been good for lots of knitting.

I haven't quite attained the peace the holiday is supposed to bring, but I don't feel as stressed as I've been in recent weeks. It's all about taking baby steps, like Bill Murray's character was instructed in What About Bob?

Since my mom is a pastor, there is no skipping out on church when visiting my parents. I usually go once a week where I live, but needless to say, there's not really a choice in the matter when staying at mom and dad's. With Christmas Eve falling on a Sunday, it meant double the churchgoing. I don't necessarily mind, although I can have some difficulty watching my mother preach. (It's worse if she draws upon something from my childhood to illustrate a point.) After Christmas she and my dad are moving near South Bend, Indiana for her new job, so today was her last Sunday preaching to her congregation of six years.

My slowly replenishing patience got a good test as the morning service was, shall we say, slower and slightly longer than what I'm accustomed to. It probably doesn't look good when one of the pastor's adult children is checking his watch and getting fidgety, but all I can say is that I tried. Now I know where my longwindedness comes from, though.

Fortunately the Christmas Eve service was moved up to 7:00 p.m. rather than the usual 10:00 or 11:00. I can appreciate the idea of having the late service, but I'm not crazy about it in practice. Be careful what you wish for because the earlier time clashed with the end of the Bengals game. I fixed my parents' VCR connection the night before, so I was able to record the game and watch the aggravating conclusion afterwards. I got very antsy during this service, not because I wanted to see the end of the game--I expected the worst and got it--but because my perpetual motion December has conditioned me to get anxious if I'm not on the move.

Getting wound up on Christmas Eve is a natural state; however, in this case it's because of what I'm waiting to give, not what I'm waiting to get. (I failed miserably at suggesting anything that I might want, so I was e-mailed a gift card earlier this week. Kind of takes the bloom off the rose.)

Actually, you already know what I want to get. I want the shocked delight of my family members when they see what I've made, and of course I want to be able to knit. If I get nothing else, Christmas will be a huge success.

Merry Christmas to you and yours.

Next...the big reveal.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Packed and linked

As you can see, I am prepared to knit while visiting my family over Christmas. Whether I actually have time to do so is another matter, but my bag is well stocked with an in-progress project, yarn for another scarf and several dishcloths, and yarn to add fringe to the striped scarf.

I would like to point out that Kristin's friend Chandra made the messenger bag. Kristin has raved about Chandra's work, and I can understand why. I love what she made and will get a lot of use out of it. This replaces my backpack, which wasn't suited for carrying knitting supplies. It's also more stylish. I know that Kristin has been helping Chandra work on a plan to make some money selling her creations. I don't know where that stands, but I'm sure I could find out if anyone is interested. I intend to be a repeat customer.

Along with my knitting, I packed up everything I needed to bring with me to Indiana. Rather than take photos of my scarves, which I need to do for that upcoming 12 FOs of Christmas post, I boxed and wrapped them. (I've never been adept at wrapping gifts, so this was a small accomplishment.) I'll take pictures on Christmas day so everyone can see what the scarves look like without the tails hanging out of them.

It's very, very tempting to give my family their gifts now so I can knit. Unless I can steal some knitting time tonight, this will be my second consecutive knitting-free day. The horror... I've waited this long to keep it secret, but this last day is going to be rough.

Unlike yesterday's thwarted attempt, I made it to JoAnn's on the way to Hagerstown, Indiana. I've mentioned before that the Dublin store is superior to those closer to me, and today's visit proved it yet again. I needed to get scissors. Mine are dull, and I wanted a pair a little smaller. I went to the yarn section and looked but didn't see any. I found a store employee, something that's been practically impossible at the other locations, and was pointed in the right direction.

How hard can it be to buy some scissors? Harder than I anticipated. There were a lot of options, and most appeared to have specialized uses. I spotted another employee and was assisted in finding the right scissors for me. The $27 scissors in a case looked sleek--and I did have a 50% off coupon--but that seemed like an awful lot for my modest needs.

This site has been linked in the last couple days, so it's time for me to return the favors. I was delighted to see what Donna Bowman had to say on her blog Union, Trueheart, and Courtesy. (You'll need to read her December 20 entry, which does not have its own unique URL.)

I "know" Donna and her husband from an online film discussion group. (I use the scare quotes because I've met her and Noel once, which is one more time than might be expected since they live in Arkansas.) You might recognize their names if you read The Onion's AV Club. Since she enjoys tatting, I thought she might like to take a look at what I write here. Well, apparently I am an infectious carrier of the knitting bug because in that blog entry she says she is "mad to learn to knit" since she started reading about how much I'm enjoying it. How wonderful!

Jennifer over at Knit Wit Girly tagged me to participate in a meme in which I'm supposed to share six weird things about myself. Only six? I'll get to it but not until after Christmas.

So, that's all for now from the Hoosier state. My mom picked up my great aunt. My brother and his wife finally got here after waiting on standby all day at the Dallas-Fort Worth airport. My other two brothers, who live closer than the rest of us, still haven't arrived. I'm assessing the situation to see if I might be able to knit without getting caught. Wish me luck.

Next...knitting in secret for the final time in my parents' home.

Friday, December 22, 2006

Life during December

Contrary to what I promised in the last post, the twelve FOs of Christmas entry will have to wait. It's going to be a big one with photos of all the scarves, but I'm not feeling up to the work it will require. Typically I've been writing entries each weekday but missed yesterday and almost today, so you know I must be busy.

Some of that is "good" busy. Thursday I worked like a dog to finish my to do list at the office. I crossed off everything. I wouldn't be surprised if I forgot to put some items on the list, but for now I feel like I'm caught up. (That's nowhere close to being true with my review writing, but I can do that over the next few days if time permits and I feel like doing it.)

Thursday night I had dinner plans with the recipients of the navy blue scarf with the "scar" and the basketweave scarf. With as much running around as I've been doing the last few weeks, going downtown again wasn't the most appealing proposition, but I was eager to give them my gifts and reveal my knitting secret. The regular navy blue scarf was for my co-host on the movie review show, and the basketweave scarf was for his wife. They seemed to be impressed that I made the gifts. I didn't expect any mocking reactions, but I was somewhat relieved that they didn't think it was strange that I'm a knitter. Maybe they do but didn't say anything out of politeness. Honestly, I'm past the point of caring. Anyway, I imagine it was pretty apparent from my excitement and the conversation that knitting has brought me a lot of pleasure.

Instead of doing some hasty gift giving, I'm glad that I took time to sit down with the two of them to eat, talk, and not pay attention to the clock. Could I have used a night at home? Yes, but I also needed some time that wasn't about staying on task and being productive.

I didn't knit on Wednesday, at least if we don't count the wee hours spent finishing Kristin's scarf and adding the fringe. I hadn't knitted on Thursday. If you're wondering how I knitted twelve scarves in ten weeks' time, it's because I tried to knit every day. I got home from dinner later than I anticipated, but I wanted to take a little time to begin a scarf for myself. I cast on fourteen stitches of the Knit Picks Andean Silk in cranberry onto my US 11s and knit enough for a swatch. I liked how it looked, so I'll be continuing to knit it when I can.

Today was a "good" busy, for the most part. Per Kristin's advice, I skipped a Letters From Iwo Jima screening for which we were given about 20 hours notice. (The studio must have decided they wanted our group's seal of approval when we vote on awards.) My initial impulse was to sigh and drag myself to it, but she helped persuade me to stay away. It really was the right thing to do, even if in its place I ended up going to the movies. The difference is that I saw something I'd already seen and wanted to see again. Plus, I wouldn't have to worry about reviewing it.

Before going to The Prestige I planned to stop at JoAnn's to buy some better scissors. Sawmill Road was a parking lot. I got the unwise idea to cut through some actual parking lots and avoid the stalled lanes. Words cannot express how terrible an idea this was. I blew upwards of twenty minutes inching through the lot and then turning back onto a street a block further from where I began. There was no time for a visit to JoAnn's now.

I arrived at the theater, plopped down a dollar for the movie, and marvelled at how nice this cheap theater was. (I see everything first run and rarely pay, so I haven't had much need to go to a place like this in awhile.) Past experience led me to expect a scratched print at a second run theater, but with the theatrical window shrinking like it has, the prints aren't as banged up. The print was pristine, and the movie was even richer the second time around. Seeing a great movie can give me a lift. The Prestige did that and also leapfrogged its way to the top spot on my list of the year's best films. My pick for the best film of the year had been unclear until now.

I went to tonight's Blue Jackets game as well, something which should have been more fun than it was. They won, which is always good, but I was sandwiched between five young guys who talked nonstop (and over one another) in an Indian language for the game's duration and a loudmouthed lawyer who felt obliged to share a stream of disparaging comments about anyone and everyone, including several gems (in his mind) about the "terrorists" in the row, to his wife. Those guys were annoying, but at least I couldn't understand what they were saying and could sort of tune them out. Mr. Superior really got on my nerves. People, I'm really trying to be patient and in the holiday spirit, but this crushes me.

All in all, not a bad couple of days, just crazy ones. Saturday I'm driving to Indiana to be with my family for the holiday, but I should make a blog entry or two before Christmas, if just to take a breather from my parents' moving preparations.

Next...the secret knitter is mentioned on other blogs.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Kristin's scarf

This morning I gave Kristin the scarf I knitted her for Christmas. I really wanted to get it done before the holidays, and with just one 7" repeat remaining to knit last night, I knew I could meet my goal. Sewing in the ends took an eternity, but I was bound and determined to weave all of them in before going to bed. I could add a fringe in the morning if I could remember how to do it.

Now I know that adding fringe isn't that difficult, but the instructions I found online seemed awfully complicated. Fortunately Kristin's parking lot tutorial the day prior stuck with me. (It's a sign of my progress that she's giving me brief lessons in parking lots and garages these days instead of fixing my mistakes.) It took me a few tries to get the fringe the way I wanted it to look, but I like that any errors in doing this can be fixed painlessly.

Conventional wisdom says that there's more pleasure in giving gifts than receiving. I think I've understood that, but this December it's been more apparent to me. I like getting gifts--who doesn't?--but what I've been anticipating all month is giving my knitted scarves to the people for whom they were made.

It's appropriate that Kristin was the first to get one. I couldn't have asked for a better teacher, and her scarf is the sum total of what I've learned so far. What I ended up knitting wasn't what I intended to make. Since she left the decision of what to knit to me, I was planning on wrapping two different shades of blue worsted weight yarn like I did with green for my third scarf. I even used the same yarn, Fantasy from Dark Horse Yarns. After knitting the striped scarf, I changed my mind. I wanted to do it in blocks and add another shade of blue.

For starters I altered the striped scarf's pattern. I did the math and made a rough drawing to determine how I could get the desired 78" length and make the scarf symmetrical. Here's my solution:

-Cast on 14 stitches to US 11s to achieve a width of approximately 4.25"
-Knit 7" in the light blue (color 16 for this yarn). I knit 42 rows per repeat.
-Knit 7" in the medium blue of the three (color 15).
-Knit 7" in the darkest blue of the three (color 14).
-Knit 7" in light blue.
-Knit 7" in medium blue.
-Knit 8" in dark blue.
-Knit 7" in medium blue.
-Knit 7" in light blue.
-Knit 7" in dark blue.
-Knit 7" in medium blue.
-Knit 7" in light blue.
-Bind off.
-Add fringe in the same order, with light blue on both ends. I trimmed it to approximately 4".

The idea is to make the stripes and colors line up even when the scarf is wrapped around the wearer's neck.

I'm very pleased with the final result, and going by her reaction, Kristin is too. That makes me happy. Yes, it is absolutely true that it is better to give than receive.

Next...the twelve FOs of Christmas.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Extreme multitasking

As much as I like going to the movies, I was relieved that no screenings were scheduled for Monday. I had plenty to do as it was. While it seemed like I had to account for every minute, it was a productive day.

Sure, at one point last night I was watching the third period of the Blue Jackets game live, rewinding and watching the Bengals game on the DVR during commercial breaks, and sewing in the ends of my last completed scarf, but I was doing what I liked. How's that for extreme multitasking? I still had to put the finishing touches on a Charlotte's Web review, but I had the energy to stay up late. Even better, I felt like I was accomplishing something.

When I was only watching the football game I knitted more of Kristin's scarf. I have about seven inches left, which I can knock off tonight with no problem. I'm not looking forward to sewing in the ends on it--I'm very slow at it and not certain I'm hiding the last bit properly--but when it's done I can breathe a little easier. It's been a fun one to knit, and finishing it means I'll have wrapped up the twelve scarves I'm giving as Christmas gifts. (If you're keeping score, I started in October hoping to knit seven for family members.)

Somehow I managed to squeeze in a quick trip to JoAnn's to buy some US 8s, a ball of cotton for dishcloths, and a crochet hook to add fringe to a couple scarves. Ater this morning's screening Kristin showed me how to add a fringe, but the way my mind is racing, I doubt I'm going to remember. We'll see how clever I am late tonight.

My Knit Picks order arrived yesterday, which made me very happy. I love the colors and can't wait to get started on a scarf for myself. One of the colors came in hanks. It ought to be fun to figure out how to wrap into a ball. (Not really.) If you have any tips, leave a comment. I tried wrapping yarn once--I had untangled a bunch after running into some knots--and the result was not pretty. Hmm...I have a Magic 8-ball promo item for Lemony Snicket's A Series of Unfortunate Events. Maybe I could use that.

If all goes well this evening, I'll be giving Kristin her scarf tomorrow. If I do, I can reveal what I've been knitting. If not, I'll keep you in suspense.

Next...knitting down to the wire.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Weekend weaving

Whether you can afford a break, sometimes it's best to go ahead and take one. I wouldn't say that I took a break this past weekend, but I didn't push myself to complete everything that I need to get done. Right now I'm resigned to finishing the essential stuff and accepting that some of the films I should review won't get written up.

Friday night I knitted a little of Kristin's scarf and then went comatose in front of the television. That was just what the doctor ordered. I still felt tired the next morning, but I motivated myself to get some work done by planning to go to Saturday's Blue Jackets game. Sure enough, I wrote one review and half of two other reviews in addition to fitting in some knitting. Then it was off to the game.

Two hours prior to gametime the Blue Jackets make a minimum of 250 seats available for $10. Since they've been winning in recent weeks, I thought there might be a longer line than when I've gone before. I arrived a half hour early and was shocked to see a line out the door of the ticket office. Cheap seat or not, I was going to buy a ticket unless only the pricey ones were left. One of the few benefits of going solo is that you can usually get a stray seat somewhere. It turned out not to matter as I landed one of the $10 tickets, a minor victory for the night and the week.

As for the game, the way it started didn't look to make it a good night. After one period, the Jackets were down 5-1. I don't live and die by my team's wins and losses, but an old-fashioned whipping like this is no fun at all. They charged back in the second period to cut the deficit to 5-4. Now I felt like they were going to pull out an amazing comeback win. In that way the game was similar to my emotional roller coaster of the week. Feel bad for a period, feel good for a period. In the end the Blue Jackets came up short, but I appreciated doing something that wasn't work-related and that took my mind off everything else.

Saturday had been productive enough that I didn't feel as much pressure on Sunday. I talked with Kristin's husband for awhile about the website he's been building for the critics' group. I intended to do some writing after that, but a nap seemed more important. When I awoke I still felt lethargic, so I scrapped any writing plans and focused on knitting. I knitted some more of the scarf, which is coming along very nicely, and then turned my attention to sewing in the ends of my otherwise FOs.

I didn't realize how long it would take to weave in the tails or how tedious it was going to be. This felt more like work. I took my time, and slowly the scarves in my finished stack outnumbered those in need of sewing.

One thing I learned was how far I've come since that first scarf. Looking at it now, I don't think it's very good. It should look OK as a whole when (or if) my brother wears it, but the sloppy stitching is embarrassing to examine. I'm glad Kristin was encouraging and didn't let on that I needed a lot of improvement. The second one is definitely a step up, and by the third scarf I think I was doing a respectable job. I'm proud of the work I've done, especially on the most recent scarves, and can't wait to give them away.

I didn't sew in the numerous ends on the striped scarf because I'd had enough by that point. I had been afraid that I wouldn't have any projects to keep me busy today, but I have a lot of weaving in to do on that scarf and a little less than two feet to knit of Kristin's scarf. That should be plenty for tonight and maybe some for tomorrow. Hopefully my Knit Picks yarn will have arrived by then.

I may also pick up some cotton for dishcloths. Small, fast projects could be good to knit during the holidays. And you know I don't have anything else I need to be doing.

Next...sewing in the last ends and, if all goes well, finishing Kristin's scarf.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Weaving in and winding down

Thank God it's Friday may have never held more meaning for me than it does today. I am thoroughly wiped out. The weekend is here, and do I ever need it. Oh, there's still work to be done, but at least the next two days aren't as highly structured as the last two weeks have been.

Having attended eight screenings this week, it felt like all I did was get up, go to a movie, go to the office, go to another movie, and collapse at home. I survived largely on a diet of coffee, granola bars, bananas, and vitamin C tablets, with the rare actual meal sneaking in there a couple times. It's no wonder that after today's morning screening I felt like an emotional and physical wreck. I snuck in a brief late afternoon nap and feel a little less volatile now. Nevertheless, a mild wind could blow me over, and a talking pig movie could reduce me to tears.

How bad of shape am I in? My mother called to ask what I wanted for Christmas--I hadn't e-mailed her anything--and I wearily told her that I didn't know what I needed or wanted and wasn't going to know. Honestly, I don't know now, and I don't want to think about it. I just want to be. Anything requiring thought or action is too taxing at this time.

Knitting is acceptable, though. Actually, it's more than acceptable; it's exactly what I need. One of my weekend projects will be to weave in the ends on all of my FOs. Kristin showed me how the other day. I sewed in a little on one scarf but wanted to make sure that it wasn't essential to sew in the whole tail--I left a lot in some cases--and to find out how I should hide the end. After all the knitting, weaving in ends seems kind of annoying, but currently I'm best suited for brainless tasks like that.

I haven't knitted much more of Kristin's scarf since my last post, so I'm looking forward to working on it. I would like to finish it this weekend, but I'm not in a deadline-setting mood at the moment.

Yarn should be on the way for my scarf. Make that scarves. I placed an order with Knit Picks so I could knit myself two scarves. Ideally I'll finish one before going home for Christmas and knit the other there after my secret has been revealed. I bought two hanks of the Sierra in leaf and two balls of the Andean Silk in cranberry. I almost bought more of the Andean Silk & Andean Silk Twist because it's what I'd like to make a matching hat in, but I'm patternless and unsure of how much I might need for such a project. If only my order would get here already!

It's hard to believe that Christmas is almost here. While I'm not in the most festive mood at the moment, it will be a relief to put work and movies behind me, even if just for a few days. The knitting goes with me, though.

Next...knitting, knitting, knitting.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Beginning Kristin's scarf

Did you see Groundhog Day? That's what this week and last week have felt like. I suppose there's a certain amount of comfort in the routine, but I'll be glad to get to the point where it doesn't feel like I have ever minute of the day scheduled.

Kristin showed me how to weave in the ends yesterday. I have a lot of that to do. While I should have done some last night, I put it off. Instead I worked on the scarf I'm knitting her for Christmas.

While I don't think she's been able to keep up with this blog during the nonstop screenings this month--a perfectly understandable situation--I am going to be vague just in case she takes a peek. I put a lot of thought into what kind of yarn to use. I'm happy with what I picked, and I can't wait to see how it looks when all the knitting is finished. I browsed some patterns but didn't find exactly what I was seeking. So, I've undertaken the task of designing something myself.

That sounds more impressive than it actually is, but it did involve math and some trial and error on paper. Knitting a scarf for Kristin feels like the culmination of everything she's taught me so far, and I want to make her proud. I'd say that her scarf is like a final exam, but those are never enjoyable while her scarf should be a lot of fun to make.

I knew how wide and how long I wanted it to be. I employed this blog as a resource to check on what needles and how many stitches I've used on other projects. It helped take the guesswork out of determining the gauge. Ready to go, I cast on the stitches and slowly knitted.

I was tired--big surprise--and knew that I would be better off taking my time than trying to knit at my usual speed. I knitted a few rows and saw that some stitches had bunched up at the end of a row. For the first several rows I have to be careful about not wrapping the yarn around part of the project's knitted portion. I'm pretty sure that's what I did here, so I frogged it and started again. No big deal.

The restart was going much better. I was taking my time and enjoying the simple act of knitting. My concentration must have drifted because after fifteen rows I noticed a small indentation at the end of an earlier row. I unknitted two rows to fix it but ended up dropping a stitch along the way. I removed the needle and frogged the next row. What I forgot to pay attention to was how the needle should be reinserted. I think I did it correctly, but as I saw in my tenth FO, the next row I knitted looked purled on one side. Since I wasn't that far into the scarf, I didn't have to accept this bad row. That's right, I frogged it again.

It was just past midnight, and I knew I needed to get to bed. Knitting brought back some sharpness to my muddled brain. I wanted to knit but knew it would be better for me and better for the scarf if I hit the sack. After an evening's effort, Kristin's scarf was a single slipknot on a needle. I take it as a sign of progress, though, that I'm not reluctant to rip out what I've done and start over.

Next...more knitting, of course.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006


Today seems like a good day for some unconnected items...

The game review I mentioned in this post is now published on Kristin's site. You can read it here.

The striped scarf should be proof positive that joining skeins is no longer a big ordeal for me. Since I had to cut the yarn and tie the tail with the other color every six inches, I got plenty of practice.

I have a lot of ends to sew in. All of them, in fact. I need to get a quick lesson from Kristin in how to do this, and then I can truly say I have eleven FOs to date.

How did I manage to knit eleven scarves in two months? Seriously, I thought that knitting seven in time for Christmas was going to be more than I was capable of doing. I'm beginning to think it's a major reason why I've been able to stay sane in an otherwise busy and stressful time.

Speaking of which, last night I hit the wall that I subconciously knew I was approaching. It brought yesterday's post to its logical conclusion, although how it happened caught me completely off-guard.

Yesterday's second screening was for the live-action version of Charlotte's Web. I didn't know why, but I felt anxious on the way to the theater. That developed into a rambunctious mood as a few of us trying to survive the screening schedule compared stress levels and vented before the film started.

Charlotte's Web was the right movie at the right time in that I know the story, even if I had forgotten a few of the particulars, and wouldn't have to think. It was the wrong movie in that it took every ounce of diminished strength I had to keep from openly weeping for the last fifteen or twenty minutes of it.

I'm going to assume that everyone knows how it ends, but if not (and you care), skip ahead to the next paragraph so that I don't spoil it for you. I was moved by the common decency of the film and its characters, but what had me fighting turning into a quivering mass was when Charlotte tells Wilbur that she is going to die and that she feels honored to have known such a good friend. I'm pretty sure that the shots cut to more extreme close-ups between the spider and the pig as the conversation goes on. I'm not kidding when I say that I really wanted them to stop it because it was killing me inside. It was like every cut and every word was shooting right through me. I thought I'd made it through the worst of it, but the rest of the movie I was on the verge of falling apart.

It really is a beautiful film about friendship, and it's supposed to be sad and happy. Still, I'm not sure that it's so powerful as to wreck me like it did. I've teared up at movies before. It's not a regular thing, but if something is good enough and hits the right buttons, I'm not immune to shedding a few tears. This was something else, though. I had trouble holding it together talking to Kristin on the way to the parking lot and finally let loose on the drive home. I'm guessing that physical and mental weariness combined with an expert tearjerking film laid me flat.

Really, I have a stronger constitution than the impression I may be giving. I feel better this morning, but thinking back to those scenes chokes me up a little even now. Maybe it's something about talking pig movies. Babe didn't have this effect on me--I can't think of any movie that's wiped me out like that--but it moved me quite a bit too.

I can't end on a teary note, so I'll wrap on a question for you all. Does anyone know of any good knit hat patterns for men? I'd like to make one that matches the scarf I'm going to knit for myself. Something basic style-wise and knitting-wise. It's not too cold right now, but I know I'm going to need something before long.

Next...beginning Kristin's scarf.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The striped scarf

I have a new favorite of the scarves I've knitted.

This striped scarf turned out fantastic. I know it wasn't that complicated to make, but it matches what I envisioned. Seeing it finished wasn't the perfect capper to Monday, but it made me feel somewhat better.

I'm pretty sure that one of the reasons why I almost knitted the whole thing on Sunday was because I was stressing out over everything this week and what I hadn't finished last week. There was also the added bonus of conflict with my neighbors, which I'm hoping doesn't turn into an all-out war.

I live in a building with four apartments. The walls are relatively thin, so noise can be an issue from time to time. I like it to be quieter, but I accept that I can't expect perfect silence. Until last year no college students lived here. Four moved into the apartment below me last year, and two moved in the available space next to me. My downstairs neighbors were loud on a regular basis, and I didn't miss them at all when they moved out, even if they were replaced by three college guys who can generate a fair amount of noise. My upstairs neighbors were fine, save for a couple occasions when they were ridiculously loud into the early hours.

That's changed. One of the tenants moved out. The new roommate must have brought a stereo system because it's been a regular occurrence for me to hear and feel what they're listening to. There's also the bonus of hearing them yell and sing along...often past 2 a.m. Weeknights, weekends, doesn't matter.

The last thing I want to do at home is play RA, especially with an apartment full of drunk and/or high college students, one or two of whom I have worked with in the past. After holding off on saying anything for a long time, I mentioned the noise to my landlord, who's been good about addressing this sort of thing. He dropped off a note on Sunday. Apparently it didn't sit too well with these students because last night they would periodically yell something to the effect of "I hope this isn't too loud", an obvious attempt at provoking me. I also heard a lot of late night door slamming and other bumps. I'm hoping they got it out of their system, but I must say that it really put me on edge.

I was already on the verge of cracking. The last week, if not the last month, may be catching up with me. I felt physically and mentally exhausted and just wanted to lay down and watch some television. Adding my neighbors' hostility to the mix was about more than I could handle.

The girl stomped out and left for awhile, which meant it was quiet while I finished knitting the striped scarf. It helped ease my nerves, but their reaction and behavior bothers me. It shouldn't. I've done nothing wrong and showed a lot more patience before "tattling" than I think a lot of people would. (Hearing the noise every night for a week straight was the last straw, and this was after putting up with it a couple nights a week for a few months.)

So knitting was a refuge, even if I felt worn out. I wasn't pleased to encounter a knotted clump of yarn as I was halfway through my last white stripe. I was in no mood to try to untangle it, so I cut it, pulled out what I thought would be enough for what I needed, and knitted on.

With my basketweave scarf Kristin noticed that I was binding off too tightly. I tried to do it more loosely on this scarf. I can see the difference it makes.

I'm down to two projects to complete before Christmas. One is for Kristin, and one is for me. I've made some changes to what I was going to knit for Kristin. I'm excited to see how it will look. I know what I want to make for myself, but I have to narrow down the options from Knit Picks and get an order placed.

Sorry to go on and on about my immature, inconsiderate neighbors. Knitting has made me feel more generous and relaxed, so I hate it when these kids make me feel as thin-skinned and misanthropic as I did last night. be determined.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Knitting for the weekend

The basketweave scarf is finished!

In one way, it couldn't have happened a moment too soon. It's not like I hated knitting it or that I had a lot of trouble making it. I didn't. The scarf came together with relatively few headaches, especially considering that I learned to purl as I knitted it. Last week's hectic schedule had me wiped out earlier in the evening than usual, so maybe that's why I don't feel as attached to the basketweave scarf. I was tired most of the time I worked on it.

Saturday I couldn't sit for one extended period of time and knit this scarf. The day went like this: knit a little, do something else for awhile, knit some more, take a longer break. I couldn't sit in one spot for very long without fidgeting. Is it the purling? I didn't hate it, but it was kind of irritating having to switch the position of the yarn and the needles every four stitches. My purling was faster by the time I finished the scarf, but I didn't like the constant interruption of the flow it caused.

I'll chalk up my restlessness to feeling like I've been on the go for a week. This scarf required patience that I usually have but was temporarily in short supply. (I can feel the same impatience and aggravation with some people right now, so I'm definitely in need of a break one of these days.) I think the scarf turned out well, and I ended up knitting a couple inches more in length than was supposed to be possible from two balls.

If I believed in a Sunday knitting curse, I'd say it got me again. I finished the basketweave scarf on what one would consider Saturday night, even if it was after midnight and thus Sunday. I was ready to bind off my last stitch when I slipped up and accidentally frogged the stitch before it. I think I got everything corrected, but I don't like how that last bound off stitch looks. Oh well. It's done. Now I can move on to a purling-free project.

Next up was a scarf for my friend who moved to Seattle a week ago. His striped scarf might have been a good way to break in the circular needles, but I nixed the idea because I don't know how to use them and am running out of time before Christmas. I found a pattern that was close to what I had in mind. It calls for bulky weight yarn as opposed to the double-wrapped worsted weight yarn I'm using, but that shouldn't matter much. I knew I could modify the number of stitches if necessary. At six inches wide and ninety inches long, the pattern is wider and longer than I wanted to make it, but again, I didn't think it would be a problem.

It wasn't a problem, so to speak, but I started and restarted the scarf more than I would have preferred. I cast on fifteen stitches to US 11s and knitted a few rows. I noticed a mistake. Rather than fix it right away, I figured I'd check the gauge and see if I needed to start over. The measurement showed it as being six inches wide, about an inch more than I wanted it to be. I frogged it and began again, this time casting on twelve stitches. I dropped a stitch somewhere along the line, although it wasn't a big deal since the scarf wasn't wide enough.

I frogged it again and cast on fourteen stitches. I knitted a few rows and measured the width at four inches, five if I spread out the stitches farther on the needle. For some reason my measurements aren't always consistent. If fifteen stitches produced six inches, which I'm now convinced they didn't, then fourteen inches shouldn't produce four inches. There was more frogging because of a dropped stitch or some other error I don't recall, but I decided to stick with fourteen stitches because the width would work itself out, right?

When I'd actually knitted a 4"x4" swatch, I could see that fourteen stitches equalled four inches. I was not about to start over again, so it would have to be four inches wide. I started with the Bernat Satin in admiral, a fancy name for navy blue, knitted until I had six inches, and noted that it took 34 rows. I cut the yarn, joined the ends to the Bernat Satin in silk (white), and resumed knitting.

After knitting my second row of the white yarn, I saw that the first row of white was below my last row of blue on one side. I'm assuming that this is normal, but honestly, I have no idea. I've included the above photo to illustrate. (I must need better lighting in my apartment because the flash always goes off when taking pictures here. It also changes the color, thus another blurry photo due to the flash being turned off. Sorry, I can't hold it that steady.)

A funny thing happened as I got to six inches with the white stripe. It only took 32 rows. Hmm. It's possible I miscounted with the blue or white. It's also possible I can't measure correctly. Whatever the case, 32 rows was good enough for me. I cut the yarn, joined the blue yarn again, and got back to work.

Having knitted the last two scarves on smaller needles, using 11s and double-wrapped worsted weight yarn felt like the difference between using a No. 2 pencil and one of those fat pencils younger students use in elementary school. It wasn't hard, but there was a brief period of readjustment. The last two scarves were also navy blue. It was really nice to knit with the white yarn, if just to give me a different color to look at.

I had hoped to get a lot of writing done over the weekend, but all I did was a game review for Kristin's site. I got into knitting this striped scarf and worked on it almost all day. I knitted during the Bengals and Blue Jackets games. I took an hour break with the idea of stopping for the night, but I went back to it and knitted for a couple more hours.

It must be a sign of my growth as a knitter that I can make mistakes and fix them. I had to unknit a few rows during the course of the day. While I got a little confused at times, I was able to repair my errors. I also had a serendipitous moment when I must have miscounted rows. This time I joined skeins on the edge opposite of where I connected the others. Because of that, my single line of yarn breaking up the colors switched to the scarf's other side. I realized that I could make it look more like a creative choice than a mistake, though. There were four of these lines on one side of the scarf. I did three on the other side and could finish by putting the other four back on the original side.

When all was said and done, I had knitted five feet. I thought about staying up late and finishing it. I'm aiming for 78 inches, not the 90 in the pattern, so I could have done it if I burned the midnight oil. Wisely, I chose to sleep, but I'm eager to finish it today.

Next...finishing the striped scarf.

Friday, December 08, 2006

Half of a basketweave scarf

The weekend is here, and it couldn't have come soon enough. It's looking a lot like last weekend, so I don't know how much rest it will bring. Regardless, I'm ready to have a couple days that I can dedicate to knitting and writing and not a lot of running around.

Kristin was the only soul brave (or foolish) enough to join me in running the gauntlet of all seven screenings this week. Next week also has seven films on the schedule, with an eighth possibly sneaking in there, so I imagine I'll be feeling about the same a week from now. I'm tired and in a bit of a daze, but I'm not sick and don't feel like I'm coming down with anything. Hooray for us, the warrior class of film critics!

It didn't hurt that the last of the bunch, The Holiday, was also the best. Who cares that the majority of the critical community doesn't agree with me? I saw it being criticized for predictability and fluffiness. Maybe it was my fatigue, but after a week dominated by serious, depressing films, something familiar and light was just what I needed. There's been a shortage of romantic comedies this year. I'd much rather go to mediocre rom coms than the surplus of horror films filling multiplexes, most of which I've strongly disliked. And just so we're clear, I liked The Holiday.

I should have been writing today, but with the frequent interruptions and my dull mental acuity this morning, it wasn't happening. I found some time to knit, although purling breaks my rhythm and keeps me from going into the automaton mode that makes the minutes melt away.

Not long ago I polished off the first ball of yarn for the basketweave scarf. Halfway done! I'm happy with how it looks so far, but I'm a little concerned about how open it appears when holding it up to a backlight. I'm assuming it's okay because...I made gauge!

The pattern calls for two balls of Lion Cashmere Blend. Since the finished product is supposed to be 4.5 inches wide and 52 inches long, I thought I'd check to see how close I am at the midpoint. I knew the width was correct long before this. I was thrilled to discover that the scarf is 25.5 inches long with one ball done. I know that's a half inch off, but I have a tail where I need to join the balls. I figure I'll lose a little length to that. Otherwise I'm on the right path.

I'm glad I bought a row counter, but I still have to be careful in keeping track of what row I'm on. The row I'm knitting is the number displayed. When I finish a row, I turn the number on the counter. The problem is if I decide to count the stitches (or get a phone call or knock on the door) at the completed row and then forget if I already changed the counter. Since the pattern calls for doing the opposite of what has just been done, except for where a new repeat begins, I've been able to look at the stitches and determine if I purled or knitted the last four. I've been finishing each repeat before stopping to cut down on any other confusion.

This weekend I'll be preoccupied with finishing the basketweave scarf and starting another of my Christmast projects. And crazy as it's going to sound, I'm planning on going to the movies tonight. The unfortunate catch with some smaller films and retrospectives is that you only get one or two chances to see them. Mutual Appreciation is only being shown twice, and I can't go tomorrow night. At least I want to see this one.

Next...the basketweave scarf as FO.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

The basketweave scarf

As you can see, the basketweave scarf is coming along slowly but surely. I haven't had a lot of time to knit this week. I could have had some bonus knitting time yesterday; however, for all my big talk about not worrying about what other people think, when push came to shove, I kept the needles in my backpack.

You see, yesterday morning's screening didn't go very smoothly. I don't like that the theater is so cold that it's necessary to wear a coat and bring a blanket in case outerwear isn't sufficient. At least I'm prepared for that. (The complaining hasn't done any good yet.) I'm not ready for an hour-long forced intermission so that the reels, which were put on upside down and backward, can be assembled properly. It kind of breaks the momentum of the movie.

Since these shenanigans aren't anything new, Kristin has taken to packing a sort of survival pack. She brings cards and her knitting in the event that we have these delays. I had my knitting with me, but I wasn't feeling brave enough to get it out. One of the younger critics sounded a little incredulous when he made a comment about what Kristin was doing. In all fairness, before I learned I might have said something similar.

I don't know why someone knitting in public seems so odd to people who don't knit. Last week one of the blowhards on local sports talk radio was talking about how knitting needles should be banned from the state university arena because of how the knitters affect the game atmosphere. I can understand that reaction if she was whittling. But knitting?

Wednesday night provided a temporary respite from screenings. I planned to get a lot of knitting done, but between repeated trips to the basement to do laundry and wanting to veg and watch TV, I didn't get as much done as I wanted. I don't have that many projects remaining for the Christmas deadline, but I'm feeling the time pinch.

Purling still feels awkward, but I'm getting the hang of it. My speed is improving too. According to the pattern, this scarf won't be as long as the others I've knitted, so that should shave some time off of it. Unless another idea comes to me, this will be the most complicated scarf I'll knit for the holidays. I'm proud of my other work, but this one may end up looking the most impressive of the bunch.

Next...more on the basketweave scarf.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

On secrecy and men knitting

I've made it through four of this week's seven scheduled screenings, but the pace I've been on caught up with me last night. I sat down to watch the Blue Jackets game and dozed off prior to the third period. I wasn't able to knit yesterday, but I did get Kristin's approval on the three repeats I've done for the basketweave scarf. She thought it looked fine, so I won't be starting it over.

Although Tuesday was a knitting-free day, one of the few since I've learned, I would like to talk about my secret knitting and being a male knitter. In the comments to yesterday's post, Jennifer blurted out the secret project she's working on but can't blog about. First of all, if you're not reading the comments, check them out. I respond to them. Second, don't be shy. Post one of your own. I'm thrilled to get comments.

Anyway, she talked about a scarf she's making for a Christmas gift exchange but can't blog about because it would end up spoiling the secret. As I've found, the secret part of this site has its advantages. Still, I can understand wanting to share one's excitement, especially if you don't have another outlet for expressing it.

I've pretty much worked through my initial reasons for not using my name--wanting to keep the surprise secret from friends and family and, let's face it, insecurity about doing something society would deem strange for a man to be doing. I like the protection the secret identity gives me from students and some other people who might accidentally stumble upon this site. Regular readers (or anyone so inclined to poke around here a little) are more than welcome to know who I am. In fact, I encourage it.

I guess what I'm saying is that I'll continue to use my "secret knitter" identity after Christmas even though it won't really be a secret to those who know me best.

As for being a man who knits, I'm not worried about it denting some über-macho image that men are supposed to live up to. I've done some online searching about men who knit, and some of the justifications strike me as overcompensation, as if there's something to be embarrassed about. True, I think there's a greater likelihood of other men ridiculing me for knitting, but I don't feel any need to make the activity more masculine. And how would I do that anyway? I watch and play sports, enjoy eating red meat, and could probably change a tire if necessary but would probably call AAA instead. Is that enough for me to be a credit to my gender?

If I'm being honest, yes, I'm aware that there are stereotypes about male knitters being gay. Kristin e-mailed me a link to a YouTube video about men who knit. It reinforces that stereotype, at least in the observations of the commenters, but it was interesting to see. (It also suggests that male knitters are bushy bearded, granola eaters.) While it's easier said than done in stating I don't care what other people think--something that is patently untrue--I'm not going to let the misperceptions and opinions of others take away from the happiness I get from knitting.

I'm more secure in being a knitter because I enjoy it, and reassurance from Kristin and those commenting here has helped a lot too. While I grew up in a household where my mom was the only woman, the video reminded me that growing up I had more female role models in my family than male relatives. (For instance, I never knew my grandfathers.) They were farm women predominantly and strong individuals, even if I can't imagine any of them considering themselves feminists.

In her sixties and maybe her early seventies, my paternal grandmother would still carry fifty-pound feed bags to the cars of customers at the grain elevator. (And yes, some of these customers were much younger, able-bodied men.)

A cousin who was around the age of my grandmother's younger sister made do on her own despite not having the use of her legs. (As a child she contracted polio.) Now I know this is going to sound like one of those sappy, vaguely condescending movies that make me roll my eyes, but she really was one of the happiest people I've known. She was not a big woman, but she had to be strong. To my recollection, she used crutches to get around her house, not a wheelchair. I can't imagine how she did it, but it worked for her. When we would get her for the holidays, my dad, one of my brothers, or I would carry her to the car and into our home. Otherwise she managed on her own.

The influence of these and other women on me has been valuable and didn't make me any less male.

One last thing...I've come across a couple online items written by some women who are less than thrilled about men who knit. One of their main objections seems to be men who try to reclaim knitting as something originally from the male domain in history. As far as that goes, I couldn't care less. The other primary beef is that apparently some think men knitting validates the activity. All I can say is that these people need to spend more time knitting and less time worrying about some shadow political agendas.

Next...back to the basketweave scarf.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Learning to purl

I had plenty to keep me occupied over the weekend, but I wanted to learn to purl so I could move onto my next project. I looked at this video and that video and these step-by-step instructions and those step-by-step instructions. None of them made very much sense, but I attempted to duplicate what I saw. Using practice yarn and bamboo needles, I made some awkward motions that I thought followed the instructions.

Try as I might, I didn't understand. Learning to do a three-dimensional activity from drawings and videos wasn't cutting it. The Week of Perpetual Screenings--just seven, not the nine I claimed in the last entry's comments--brought a film on Monday morning. Afterward I asked Kristin to give me a quick primer in purling.

I knew where the right needle went but was uncertain about everything after that. She took me through the steps. With her showing me, purling clicked in a way that the websites didn't make clear. I purled a few stitches to make sure I had it down. When I got home I purled a couple rows so I would remember the technique.

Seeing me purl is not a pretty picture, but I understand how to do it now. Whether it's eagerness, impatience, or both, I dispensed with the practice yarn and readied work on my next project. I'm using navy Lion Brand Cashmere Blend yarn and following the basketweave scarf pattern that is printed on the label. (You must be registered on the Lion Brand site to view the patterns, but I expect most of you already are.)

Kristin's primary tip was to take it slow as I try my first mix of knit stitches and purl stitches. Since I had to figure out yarn placement every four stitches, I had no problem going slow. I should remind myself that I wasn't very fast when I began knitting, but my speed has increased with time and experience.

Five rows make a repeat in the pattern. I did three repeats. The purl stitches became a little less of an ordeal with each successive row. The cast-on stitches have curled a little, sort of like a rounded wave rather than a straight line, but some of the websites I've skimmed make it sound as though this is normal.

It's possible that what I've done so far is good for practice but not good enough for a scarf to give someone. I'll have Kristin examine my work and see what she thinks. I'm OK with frogging it all and starting over. I don't have that much done, and if it makes for a better FO, then what's the harm?

I am relieved to have figured out how to purl. I'm not entirely comfortable doing it, but it's coming faster than learning the knit stitch.

How lucky am I to know someone who can teach me? As I sifted through sites looking for purling instructions, I came across a message board where beginning knitters were asking for help. Many of them are learning from books and getting assistance from more experienced people posting on those boards. As this latest lesson taught me, having someone who can show me what to do and see what I'm doing is a blessing.

Next...knitting the basketweave scarf.