Monday, October 31, 2011

Sunday, October 30, 2011

One Dozen

Happy Anniversary Sweetheart!

Thursday, October 27, 2011

Listening To My Hands

My hands are most certainly speaking to me today, and this is what they want:
  1. A break from wee needles and tiny yarns. 
  2. To knit something with big, fat (for me) needles and wool.
  3. Lots of stretching...perhaps some work with Chinese therapy balls.
  4. Some TLC...including a good soak in some nice, warm water and a bit of a massage. 
  5. Wristers...for the warmth on my wrists would be welcome. 
It's hard, because my heart and mind are screaming for more lace and more socks....but I'm smart enough to know that when my hands speak like this I'd best listen. 

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Needles, Needles, Needles

I quite firmly believe that if you are going to invest a large amount of time and energy into something you feel passionately about than you should invest in the best possible tools that you can afford.  Much as we would sometimes like to believe otherwise, the end results DO depend on the materials that you use. 

I was also raised to believe that it was better to have one really nice (fill in the blank) that would last than to have multiple cheap (fill in the blank) that would fall apart with little use.  It's all connected...quality matters. 

Where am I going with this?  Well, to state the obvious, my knitting needles are a very important part of my life. Back in 2003, when knitting became my primary hobby/craft/art form, I spent some time testing out the various types of needles on the market to see which worked best for me.  Ultimately, I decided to invest some serious money into building a complete set of Addi Turbo original circulars, and I have never regretted that decision. 
 
Then Came The Princess.

I did the border with a standard 2.0 mm, 24 inch addi circular.  At only 20-30 stitches wide, this wasn't a problem at all.  The stitches stayed on the needle tip and I never had to worry about moving them back and forth over the join. 

This changed when I picked up the 865 stitches along one side of the edging to do the feather border.  It quickly became apparent that the joins on my needles were not at all smooth enough to handle that quantity of wee tiny stitches made from wee tiny yarn. 

I did two things.  First, I ordered a set of 2.0 mm needles from The Gossamer Web on Etsy.  Then I went to a local yarn shop and bought a set of 2.0 mm addi turbo lace needles.  What followed was mostly chronicled in this blog post about facing my worst possible with the Princess

What I should also add is that after I fixed the mistake I continued to work with the addi lace needles until it became blaringly obvious that the metal in the needles was reacting to my hands and was blackening both the knitting and my hands.  This was not entirely unexpected.  When the addi lace needles were first released I tried them...and had the exact same thing happen.  At the time there were reports that this wasn't that uncommon, that there had perhaps been a manufacturing problem with the first few batches.  Problem or not, I returned all of the lace needles I had purchased.  I had been completely grossed out by the tarnishing needles, and couldn't imagine what horrors that tarnish could cause in the yarn.  I noticed 'grunge' showing up on the Princess right before the break happen, but thought maybe I had just not washed my hands well.  When the problem didn't go away but got worse, and when I had black streaks show up on my hands where they came into contact with the needles I knew it wasn't a fluke.  Lucky me, my body chemistry hates the addi lace needles. 

So I transferred the needles to the Gossamer Web needles.  Let me say first of all that the joins are beautiful.  I was STUNNED when the needles slid back and forth from cable to needle tip with absolutely no problem at all.  The bamboo was smoother than I expected, which was very nice, and the tips were very pointy indeed.  It lasted only a few rows, though.  The big problem was the actual cable.  I think perhaps it was a tad wider than the 2.0 mm needles, and it was most certainly made of a very 'sticky' plastic.  While I had no problems sliding the yarn over the joins getting them there was a nightmare.  (My guess is that on the bigger needle sizes this isn't a problem at all.)  Quite literally the stitches were getting very stuck on those cables...to the point that I was actually worried that they were going to break.  Also, I couldn't get past the fragility of the needletips.  I felt like I was doing some fairly drastic compensating with my normal movements to make sure I didn't break a needle...and eventually that would have effected gauge. 

Fortuantely, the wonderful Bonnie of Blue Penninsula had made a suggestion in the comments of my last post on the subject.  She suggested Hiya Hiya stainless steel circulars.  I admit that at this point I was becoming a bit desperate and was also sceptical as h***.  However, I ordered a set from The Loopy Ewe, and waited patiently for them to arrive. 

Dear friends and family, I am in love.  The pointiness of the tips falls somewhere between the Gossamer Web bamboos and the addi lace needles.  The stainless steel is ever so slightly roughed up so that it's not quite as slick as the original addis, but it's nowhere near the annoying gripiness of the addi lace coating.  The important part, though, is that the joins are absolutely perfect.  I've literally cut 10-15 minutes of knitting time off of each and every row because I no longer have to stop and coax the stitches over the joins.  This has made me a very, very happy knitter.  I've now done about 20 rows on the new needles, and so far the joins are holding up just fine.  While there isn't a lifetime guarantee on the Hiya Hiyas (and God Bless Addi Turbos for that guarantee!), they are about half the cost of my addis...so if I do have to occasionally replace them (which I'm starting to think I won't) than it's not going to be tragic.

So I'm back to happily working away on my Princess shawl....problem solved.  Now that the needle problem is fixed I'm cruising along at a really nice pace and am now about half way through the feather border.  (Which is 200 or so rows...at 865 stitches/row)  Pictures will come soon....promise!

I thought seriously about taking some comparison photos for this post....but given my camera it's really tough to get detail shots sometimes and we are talking about needles that are practically the size of toothpicks.  I know my own limitations!

Monday, October 24, 2011

Monday, Monday...Again!

  • No, I did crawl under a rock or fall down a rabbit hole last week.
  • I did, however, have a bit of a relapse with the pneumonia....and spent much of the week as a coughing mess. 
  • Yuck. 
  • Some good news!  My personal trainer did an evaluation at our last appointment, and I made considerable progress with overall strength.  I love having muscles. 
  • More good news!  My Princess ran for the student senate last week and won!  She wrote a pretty amazing speech (all by herself) and created a poster for her campaign.  We are very proud.  I'm not entirely sure what an elementary student senate does....but I'm not at all surprised she wanted to be a part of it.  My girl is a natural-born leader.
  • Even more good news!  The Pixie and I read a book together for the first time over the weekend.  She managed most of the words on her own!  I LOVE this stage.  It's so much fun to watch your children discover they can read all by themselves....and to see the whole world open up to them in a brand new way.
  • The Boy and I are in a bit of a stand-off over food.  I refuse to let him live on a diet of all-brown and white.  He refuses almost all fruits, veggies and meats.  Project sneaky babysitter begins this week.  What he doesn't know about what I sneak into his food....His mom and I are plotting.  Love him like crazy, and I want to make sure he has the best nutrition possible.
  • Meanwhile, the Cupcake has discovered she can climb...and boy is she proud of herself.  Keeps me hopping! 
  • Oh, and last week I discovered the Cupcake standing in the dog water bowl, soaking wet up to her knees and laughing with great joy.  It was pretty funny, and we've been laughing about it since. 
  • My husband's Halloween decorations have gone to completely new places this year. 
  • Wow. 
  • Come Christmas there won't be anything out front...but you should see our entryway now.  He's planning on taking the girls to look for MORE decorations this week.  I just smile and nod, happy that they are so happy.
  • We had mild frost last week!  Two days of weirdly high temps, and the colder weather should set in.  Yay!  Death to all ragweed!  Hello to warm woolies! 
  • I know...I'm nuts when it comes to the cold weather.  It's just so much easier to warm up than it is to cool off.
Have a great week everyone!

Monday, October 17, 2011

Monday, Monday

Herc checking out the wethers through the fence. 
They are jealous of his spiffy, wool-protecting coat.
  • The weather is cooling off, and frost is predicted for this week!  I am a happy, happy girl!
  • I want wool, coffee, pumpkin muffins and more wool.  I will get wool, tea, whatever fruit I can find and more wool.  It's all good. 
  • I got a new sock book in the mail last week, and immediately started working on one of it's patterns.  More on that later this week...for now, just know that I am in love with the project.
  • I did order new needles for my Princess, and until they arrive it's on hold.
  • Today I had my last appointment with my trainer.  Sean has said I should hire her for more training since my time with her was made less effective by the pneumonia that rampaged through our house - forcing me to stay home for most of last month.  We'll see.  With the holidays coming, and having just been on vacation I don't know that I can justify the expense. 
  • Ditto for the hair.  I really, REALLY want red hair again...but the upkeep is prohibitive.  (Red fades considerably faster than any other color, and I would need to go in monthly.)
  • My eldest child had a big disappointment this weekend, and I'm in full mama-bear mode.
  • My littlest is proving to be a night-owl just like Daddy.  Big sigh.
  • My husband shaved for the last time yesterday until January.  Yay!  I love beard season! 
  • Last night I had a dream that was so obvious in it's symbolism that I almost have to laugh.  Normally my dreams aren't quite so blunt.  However, it is rather unusual for a new motif to show up in my dreams, so it will get some thought this week.
Have a great week everyone!

Friday, October 14, 2011

Now That The Worst Has Happened,

My biggest fear with the Princess shawl has been that a stitch would catch on the join between needle and cable and snap.  I knew this wasn't a hypothetical, that it was just a matter of time.  Sure enough, yesterday morning I found a broken stitch as I was working my way across a row. 

Drat. 

Now that it's happened, however, I can move on knowing it's not the end of the world. 

Yes, it takes lots and lots of time to carefully backtrack - undoing all of the stitches until you come to the break, and then going back even further so that you can add the new yarn.  Yes, joining new yarn when you are dealing with such fragile work is a pain in the you know what.  Yes, I would far rather be happily adding new stitches than fixing this type of problem.  Yes, there is the stress of making sure you didn't drop any stitches, and/or of having to fix any runs that have happened. 

But it happens, you deal with it, and you move on. 

Knitting problems have never bothered me all that much. 

The bigger issue is what to do about those joins. 

I quickly abandoned my original addi turbos after finishing the edging because the joins had become loose after an earlier project.  They were thus ok for the edging, but once I had to move stitches over the join they had to go.  The current needle is an addi lace needle...and while the (very, very slightly) more pointed needle is nice I hated whatever they coated the needles with to give them more grip.  I, quite perversely, like my needles to be as slick as possible, and it took a good 20+ rows to wear most of that junk off of the needles!  Besides, as with the plain addis, the joins obviously loosen after time making them a problem.  Addis do come with a lifetime guarantee, but if I have to go through the roughly  6-12 sets it would take at this rate I think I would seriously test the patience of the local yarn shop owners. 

I did buy a bamboo circular from The Gossamer Web, and while the joins look superb they are bamboo...and are thus both fragile and too 'sticky' for my taste.  I am debating whether or not to try them...and leaning towards not. 

I had hoped to finish the first of the three charts for the feather border this week, but instead I think I'll set it aside and figure out what I want to do about this perplexing problem!  As always, suggestions are welcome. 

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Things I DIDN'T Do On Our Vacation

  1. Freak out on the airplane.  My acting skills are obviously improving.  I still hate airplanes, but I can tolerate them now...and as with the tornadoes, I'm proud of the fact that my girls have no idea of exactly how much they terrify me.
  2. Knit a single stitch.  Seriously.  I took two projects, and didn't touch either all week long.  I keep telling you all that while I enjoy knitting I don't necessarily knit for fun.  Lest you think I was just too busy...there would have been plenty of time.
  3. Worry about my food/allergies/health/appearance in general.  Rather nice to not think about all of that stuff for a week, actually. 
  4. Avoid pictures.  This is rather new for me.  In fact, I jumped in front of every Disney photo pass photographer I found!  LOVE those people! 
  5. Plan too much.  We had basic dinner reservations for our dining plan, but other than that we went where we wanted, when we wanted.  It works for us.  Over scheduling a vacation seems counterintuitive.
  6. Get upset over losing my (rather pricey and sentimentally important) troll bead bracelet on our last day in the parks.  Gram always said you shouldn't cry over things that money can replace - and while we can't afford to replace it just now, it's loss in no way diminishes how wonderful the rest of the trip was.  I'm just not upset about it at all.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The View From My Knitting

 Every afternoon my daughter's cat, Shamrock, joins me on the couch for some snuggle time while the extra kids are asleep.  If I'm lucky, the view from my knitting looks like this.
 She is a kitten, though, and so normally it looks like this....
 and then this...
 Getting a bit nutty...
 kittens....
 what can you do?

Monday, October 10, 2011

Introducing...

 Hercules
 The four-horned, lilac spotted Jacob Ram.
Crazy, isn't he?!!!

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Monday, October 3, 2011

Better Things To Do

We will be back in a week! Right now we have a little magic to make.